Joseph Hansen

Negro Soldiers Expose Rankin’s Racial Lies

(30 June 1945)

Source: The Militant, Vol. IX No. 26, 30 June 1945, p. 4.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
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A stinging answer to Representative John Rankin, Negro-hating chairman of the House Veterans Committee, has come from soldiers stationed at the Negro Psychiatric Hospital, Northport, N.Y. In the investigation of brutal treatment of patients in veterans’ hospitals, Rankin first attempted to whitewash his friends’ evil-smelling administration. When this tactic failed, he turned to his favorite political weapon – Negro-baiting.

If conditions were bad in the hospitals, declared this venomous Congressional representative of the Southern bourbons, then the fault lies with the Negroes. Carefully avoiding instances of brutality for which his lily-white friends bear complete responsibility, Rankin at the close of the June 14 committee hearings, pointed to Negro attendants at Northport hospital and tried to whip up a lynch spirit against them.

“It is a disgrace,” he shouted; “that the War Dept. should send nigger troops into our Veterans Administration Hospitals to be mixed up with white nurses and with officers who cannot enforce discipline.”

Truth Demanded

Indignant Negro soldiers stationed at Northport have demanded that the truth about Northport be made public. Several of them wrote letters to the Lynn Committee to Abolish Segregation in the Armed Forces. The complete text of one of these letters follows:

“The slanderous insinuations being spread by Rep. Rankin that Negro soldiers are abusing white patients at this institution require an answer. I came with the first group of Negro soldiers here July 6, 1943. At that time the War Department specifically provided that detachments in Veterans neuro-psychiatric institutions should be composed of Negro enlisted personnel and white officers. In other words, the work to be done was considered too menial and unpleasant for white soldiers.

“The soldiers were given no course of training. The facility was tragically understaffed. Soldiers would be thrown into wards of violent patients alone, without knowledge of how to protect themselves, much less the patients from other patients. Rankin does not mention the scores of soldiers grievously maimed, sometimes permanently, by berserk homicidals or suicidals. The civilian attendants had not been given a course of training either, and understaffed as they were, they had to have recourse to violence to protect themselves. Their rudimentary techniques they taught the soldiers. Attendants are badly underpaid and the state of current knowledge of how to best cure the institutionalized insane is primitive.

Whites Refuse

“Yet in the almost two years we have been here there have been only 15 prosecutions for assaulting or threatening to assault patients on the part of soldiers. A month and a half ago the authorities determined to transfer the Negro soldiers and replace them with white. But the Negro soldiers are still here because the white soldiers refuse to work in the wards under the conditions the Negro soldiers have to face. Lt. Burk, one of the officers assigned here last year, said that the Negro soldier injured in this hospital had as much right to the Purple Heart as any soldier wounded in combat.

“I suggest that newspapers interview some of the personnel who have had to work here for years before printing rumors designed to exacerbate face hatred.”

* * *

More Facts Revealed by Press Reporter

What is the truth about conditions at Northport Veterans Hospital? Southern-born Col. Louis F. Verdel, manager of Northport, in league with Negro-hating Representative Rankin, has tried to blame Negro attendants for instances of brutality to patients. But Albert Deutsch, who has been active in exposing the facts about shocking conditions in veterans’ hospitals, declares in the June 22 PM:

“The real blame for conditions at Northport rests not on the accused but on the accusers – the buckpassing executives of the Veterans Administration who, to save their own skins, made scapegoats of a group of enlisted men without giving them a chance to defend themselves.

“Why was nothing said about the Negro soldier-attendant who was found unconscious on the floor of Ward 6 at Northport, beaten up by disturbed patients with whom he was left alone?

Many Injured

“Why was nothing said about another attendant, likewise alone in a ward, who is now in a hospital with three broken ribs after having been beaten up and trampled upon by a homicidal patient?

“Why was nothing said about the heroic action of two Negro soldier attendants in subduing a patient in Ward 61 who was running amok in a ward brahdishing a knife stolen from the dining room and threatening to kill his fellow-patients?

“Why was nothing said of the many injuries – including broken ribs and fractured limbs – sustained by Negro soldier-attendants at Northport at the hands of acutely disturbed patients while they were supervising crowded wards alone, with no training in methods of handling violent patients without hurting them?

“Why was nothing said about the fact that none of the court-martialed soldiers was charged with malicious unprovoked brutality, and that in each instance, according to Gen. Terry, the brutality charge arose from an emergency situation in which the accused man was trying to subdue a patient attacking either a fellow-patient or the attendant himself?”


Last updated on: 7 November 2018