Grace Carlson Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Grace Carlson

Use Race Slander in Hospital Probe

(23 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 25, 23 June 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Failing in his attempts to whitewash the responsible Veterans’ Administration officials. Representative John Rankin, chairman of the House Veterans Committee is now trying to inject the race issue into the investigation of conditions in veterans’ hospitals. At the conclusion of the committee’s hearing on June 14, at which Colonel Louis Verdel, manager of the Veterans Mental Hospital at Northport, N.Y. confirmed earlier revelations of brutal treatment of veteran patients there, the Jim Crower from Mississippi burst out with:

“It is a disgrace 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.”

This was in reference to Col. Verdel’s testimony that 130 Negro soldiers have been attached to the Northport Hospital as attendants and that 13 Negro soldiers have recently been court-martialed for alleged mistreatment of veteran- patients there.

Attributing the Northport “trouble” to what he terms the Army’s “non-segregation” policy, Rankin now thinks that the War Dept. should be investigated. “It seems to me that these cases (Northport) involved negligence on the part of the War Department rather than the Veterans Administration,” he told reporters after the June 14 committee hearing.

How the vicious Jim Crow treatment of hundreds of thousands of Negro troops in the U.S. Army could be considered as evidence of a “non-segregation” policy, only Rankin could say! However, this latest maneuver is proof that Rankin is continuing his efforts to divert public wrath from his friends in the Veterans Administration. Now, he is charging the Negro soldier-attendants, assigned to duty in veterans’ hospitals, with responsibility for all of the evils of the veterans’ hospital set-up.

For the first three months of the House Committee’s present “investigation” into conditions in these institutions, Rankin refused to admit that anything was wrong with the veterans’ hospitals. When Albert Deutsch of PM and Victor Maisel of Cosmopolitan magazine appeared before the Committee in May to testify as to the mistreatment of veteran-patients in VA hospitals, they were insulted by Chairman Rankin, Maisel, an authoritative writer on military medicine, whose articles in Cosmopolitan magazine and Readers’ Digest had been an important factor in forcing the House investigation, was told by Rankin: “You’ve done a great disservice to the greatest system of veterans’ hospitals the world has ever seen.”

Independent investigations by the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars confirmed the Maisel and Deutsch charges of brutality, inadequate treatment, underfeeding and overcrowding in veterans’ hospitals. Rankin was forced to change his line that nothing was wrong in these “best of all” veterans’ hospitals. The race issue was introduced. Each witness from the veterans’ organizations and each Veterans Administration official was questioned by Rankin as to race relations in VA hospitals.

When Colonel Verdel of the Northport Hospital admitted that patients there had been slapped, choked and hit with knotted towels, Rankin made very sure that every one understood that 13 Negro soldier-attendants had been court-martialed in connection with these incidents. Even more sensational charges of brutality had been made against white attendants and officials at the Lyons, N.Y. veterans hospitals some months ago, but Rankin did not publicize them!

Maisel reports the fact that Robert Hegler, a conscientious objector, ran away from the Veterans’ Mental Hospital at Lyons in October, 1944 to report the terrible conditions there. His diary, shown to New York reporters told of helpless patients being “kicked in the head,” “beaten up in bed,” “wrung out,” i.e., being choked with a towel around the neck. Hegler’s diary made it very clear, by relating incident after incident, that the brutality was not limited to attendants.

After Hegler’s story broke in the papers, Veterans Administrator Frank Hines (Hines was fired by President Truman on June 8 because of the hospital scandal) was forced to make an investigation. However, when Maisel went to the Lyons Hospital in January 1945 to find out what changes had been made, he learned from the Chief Medical Officer, Colonel Lopez that “no dismissals had occurred.

But Robert Hegler, the conscientious objector who had exposed the shocking mistreatment of sick and wounded servicemen at the Lyons Hospital was sent to federal prison!

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

Last updated: 31 October 2018