Grace Carlson Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Grace Carlson

Mistreatment of Sick Veterans Charged

(19 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 20, 19 May 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“The defendants and their co-conspirators would endeavor by any means at their disposal to procure members of the military and naval forces of the United States to become undisciplined, to complain about food, living conditions, and missions to which they would be assigned, to create dissension, dissatisfaction and insubordination among the armed forces, to impair the loyalty and morale thereof ...”

This is Count 7 of the frame-up indictment brought in 1941 against 29 leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and Motor Transport Workers Union, 544-CIO in the Minneapolis Labor Case. No evidence was brought in court to substantiate the charge of interfering with the morale of the armed forces, but 18 of us had to serve terms in federal prisons just the same.

But the morale of the disabled servicemen – of the wounded and sick veterans who have been discharged to the Veterans Administration hospitals is not “protected” by the U.S. Department of Justice. Recent exposures of conditions in veterans’ hospitals have shown that there is plenty of reason for veterans themselves “to complain about food and living conditions” in these institutions. Investigators have found a tremendous amount of “dissatisfaction” among the veteran patients in these federally-operated hospitals.

“Morale Impaired”

The “morale” of these war casualties of the “military and naval forces of the United States” has certainly been “impaired.” But no federal indictments have been brought against the heads of the Veterans’ Administration who are responsible for these shocking conditions in veterans’ hospitals. They haven’t even lost their jobs. Most thorough of the investigations into conditions in Veterans’ Administration hospitals was made by Albert Q. Maisel, author of Miracles of Military Medicine and The Wounded Get Back.

Published under the title, Third-Rate Medicine for First-Rate Men, Maisel’s articles on veterans’ hospitals ran in the March and April issues of Cosmopolitan. In the introduction to the second article, Maisel writes:

“In last month’s Cosmopolitan, I exposed how thousands of tuberculous veterans are being neglected, mistreated, underfed, and discharged to almost certain death in the hospitals run by the Veterans’ Administration. Yet these t.b. hellholes – disgraceful as they are – are almost heavens compared with the thirty Mental Hospitals run by the same Veterans’ Administration.

“Read the evidence in the accompanying article – the shocking, shameful evidence of brutality, beatings, overcrowding and third-rate treatment which are the lot of our most defenseless disabled veterans. Read it – and remember that this is no description of Hitler’s concentration camps. This is happening today and every day, here at home to Americans – the veterans who should be our honored and best-treated citizens.”

Already 10,000 mental casualties of World War II have been “shoehorned” into the Veterans’ Mental Hospitals alongside the 30,000 mentally wrecked soldiers from World War I. Maisel visited many of these hospitals and talked to Veterans’ Administration officials and mental patients of both wars. He has mountains of evidence of bureaucracy, incompetence, backwardness and brutality.

The most damning evidence against them came from the diary of Robert Hegler, a conscientious objector who ran away from the Veterans’ Mental Facility at Lyons, N.Y. in October 1944. Hegler’s diary shown to New York City reporters told of veteran patients being “kicked in the head,” “beaten up in bed,” “being ‘wrung out’ ” i.e., being choked with a towel around the neck.

Maisel reports that after Hegler’s story broke in the New York papers Brigadier General Frank Hines the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs was forced to make an investigation into Hegler’s charges. On November 17, 1944, General Hines said, “The investigation reveals some substantiation of the charges made by Robert Hegler ... Appropriate steps are being taken to remedy the situation ...”

In January, 1945, Maisel went to the Veterans’ Hospital at Lyons to find out what changes has been made. He found that M.E. Head was still the Manager of the hospital and that Colonel Lopez was still the Chief Medical Officer there. One physician has been transferred to another veterans’ hospital. According to Colonel Lopez, “no dismissals had occurred though a few attendants – two or three – had been permitted to resign.”

But there was ONE victim. Robert Hegler, the conscientious objector who exposed these conditions was sent to federal prison!

Grace Carlson Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 31 October 2018