Why The Wall Street Journal Is A Great Newspaper (‘The Lobotomy Files’ Edition)

Today’s Wall Street Journal features the last in a remarkable three-part series, The Lobotomy Files.

From the first installment (Forgotten Soldiers):

The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans—and likely hundreds more—during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports unearthed by The Wall Street Journal. Besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, the Veterans Administration performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals.

It’s the next sentence, though, that’s the kicker: “The VA doctors considered themselves conservative in using lobotomy.”

Among the documents the WSJ unearthed was this 1950 memo showing regional VA officials “anxious to start”:




And here’s what happened once they did:




Those “sequellae” are what’s more commonly known as complications.

The Journal series is based on “the forgotten lobotomy files, military records and interviews with veterans’ relatives [that] reveal the details of lives gone terribly wrong.”

There was Joe Brzoza, who was lobotomized four years after surviving artillery barrages on the beaches at Anzio, Italy, and spent his remaining days chain-smoking in VA psychiatric wards. Eugene Kainulainen, whose breakdown during the North African campaign the military attributed partly to a childhood YoungRomanTritztendency toward “temper tantrums and [being] fussy about food.” Melbert Peters, a bomber crewman given two lobotomies—one most likely performed with a pick-like instrument inserted through his eye sockets.

And [Roman] Tritz, the son of a Wisconsin dairy farmer who flew a B-17 Flying Fortress on 34 combat missions over Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe.

“They just wanted to ruin my head, it seemed to me,” says Mr. Tritz. “Somebody wanted to.”

The other two chapters (One Doctor’s Legacy) and (Family Scars) are equally riveting. Catch it if you can.

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6 Responses to Why The Wall Street Journal Is A Great Newspaper (‘The Lobotomy Files’ Edition)

  1. Surely they mean, “eager,” not “anxious.”

    • Campaign Outsider says:



      • Hope (Diamond) Bartlett says:

        My father fell victim to this barbaric procedure.
        I’ve considered filing a claim, but am always told that one cannot “sue” the government.
        That ill-advised government decision has affected 3 generations of our family.
        I asked my representative for information re my father’s VA records which were finally sent to me on disks, but I cannot open.
        I am a low-tech ol’ lady (77)…was his only child n’ next-of-kin…and want some answers before I ” kick the bucket”…
        Just feel the VA and the government are…have been…wrong on so many levels and to this day continues to negatively affect our lives.

        Hope Bartlett

      • Campaign Outsider says:

        You have our utmost sympathies, Hope.

      • Hope says:

        after some research, it appears that “Campaign Outsider” is a liberal/partisan site.
        Translation: “Campaign Outsider” is NOT a NON-partisan organization; it’s just more fake news?

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