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....In a standard lobotomy, the surgeon opens the skull and severs the prefrontal part of the brain from the rest of the brain.
“Realistically looking back, the diagnosis didn’t really matter—it was the behaviors,” says psychiatrist Max Fink, 90, who ran a ward in a Kentucky Army hospital in the mid-1940s. He says veterans who couldn’t be controlled through any other technique would sometimes be referred for a lobotomy. I didn’t think we knew enough to pick people for lobotomies or not.... It’s just that we didn’t have anything else to do for them.”
Much more at the link. It seems that the government was looking mostly at men with what today we would call PTSD and taking advantage of a way to control intractable people. I'd like to see more details on how this related to homosexuals. Presumably, as Fink said "it was the behaviors." This was back in the days before Thorazine, so it's hard for us today to picture what these doctors were seeing.
During eight years as a patient in the VA hospital in Tomah, Wis., [Roman] Tritz underwent 28 rounds of electroshock therapy, a common treatment that sometimes caused convulsions so jarring they broke patients’ bones. Medical records show that Mr. Tritz received another routine VA treatment: insulin-induced temporary comas, which were thought to relieve symptomsMy mother, who is no longer alive, was a WAC who worked in wards like this in the 1940s, but I never heard her say anything about the treatments, only very general things about how the men suffered.
To stimulate patients’ nerves, hospital staff also commonly sprayed veterans with powerful jets of alternating hot and cold water, the archives show. Mr. Tritz received 66 treatments of high-pressure water sprays called the Scotch Douche and Needle Shower, his medical records say....
“You couldn’t help but have the feeling that the medical community was impotent at that point,” says Elliot Valenstein, 89, a World War II veteran and psychiatrist who worked at the Topeka, Kan., VA hospital in the early 1950s. He recalls wards full of soldiers haunted by nightmares and flashbacks. The doctors, he says, “were prone to try anything.”