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 tendency 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.”