(CNSNews.com) - The director of the VA hospital in Indianapolis has removed a World War II-era newspaper front page from a historical display at the hospital because it contains the headline, “Japs Surrender.”
The hospital has replaced it with another newspaper, whose headline says “Peace.”
Linda Jeffrey, the public affairs officer at the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, explained the action.
“We have a hallway in our outpatient clinics that has a lot of different military memorabilia--artifacts if you will. Some of them are newspaper ads--Buy Bonds!’--and things like that. This particular artifact was an original newspaper story from the Indianapolis Times, dated Aug. 14, 1945,” Jeffrey told CNSNews.com.
The item had been on display for 10 years, she said, until a month ago.
“One of our new employees contacted the director, Tom Mattice, and told him that particular military memorabilia was particularly offensive to people of Japanese origin. So our director asked that we take it down,” Jeffrey added.
Local Marine Corps veterans were outraged.
Indiana vet Bud Albright told CNSNews.com that the removal is offensive to those who fought against the Japanese in defense of American freedom.
“A large majority of the veterans feel it was an insult to them and the people that died during that war,” Albright told CNSNews.com.
Albright and other vets started a letter-writing campaign to protest the action.
“Out of a couple of thousands of e-mails, letters and phone calls, we’ve received, only two thought he (the VA hospital director) the right thing,” he said.
Vietnam vet Don Myers, Indiana’s most decorated veteran, labeled the VA’s action as “political correctness.”
“Any Marine will tell you that, in this day and age, they damn well know the term ‘Jap’ is a rude and insulting remark -- that is not the issue,” Myers said. “But you’ve got people here who are trying to change history.”
Myers said he personally spoke to director Mattice to make his case.
“I said, ‘What if that headline had said ‘Japs Bomb Pearl Harbor?’ Would you have taken that one down?’ And he said, I have no more to say to you, Mr. Myers,’ and hung up.”
Mattice is traveling, the VA’s Jeffrey said, and unavailable for comment. But the director did consult with the Washington, D.C., office of the Department of Veterans Affairs for guidance, she said.
The VA’s Ethics Office supported the director’s action, she added.
“They supported that decision, that we are a healing institution and we are certainly not wanting to create a hostile work environment, and (said) that one of the things we could do – and we had been doing this on our own – was to find something of equal historical significance that was not offensive; something that signified the end of World War II and celebrated the fact that we did lose our men and women there,” Jeffrey said.
The hospital, meanwhile, has located another original Indianapolis newspaper – one with the headline “Peace” – and will soon use it to replace the one taken down.
“Basically, that was the significance of the war,” Jeffrey added.
Floyd Mori, national executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, applauded the medical center for its action.
“Although it’s of World War II vintage, we feel it sends a wrong kind of a message to today’s generation and so we’re concerned about it, we’re glad it was taken down, and we support the new director there that felt the need to do so,” Mori told CNSNews.com.
“I think historical artifacts certainly have their place, perhaps in museums, where an educational element of the artifact is alongside the piece itself,” Mori added..
But Myers, who said the veterans were told the same thing by the VA administrator – that “this is a hospital, not a museum” – is livid and sees that as a mere dismissal.
“No, this is a veterans’ hospital,” Myers said. “This is not the community hospital, or city hospital or general hospital – this is a veterans’ hospital. Yes, it is a museum. That’s why we have the Hall of Honor there – with all these news clippings, and all these photos. And all these people’s names -- and the actions they were involved in.
“The last Civil War veteran from Indiana died in this hospital. The last Spanish War veteran died in this hospital. The last World War I veteran from Indiana died in this hospital. It had men pass through who saw the flag- raising on Iwo Jima, (who) fought in all the famous battles of World War II, Korea, right on down the line through Vietnam to present day. You tell me this is not a museum? Yes it is. It’s a historical place.”
While individual veterans may be incensed, meanwhile, veterans groups are not getting involved.
The American Legion, for one, has decided not to take an official position on the issue, according to Steve Short, adjutant for the Legion’s Indiana department.
“When we fight a battle with the VA, it’s to ensure that the medical care at those hospitals is top notch,” Short told CNSNews.com. “While we can certainly empathize with those that are furious with the effort to remove that particular newspaper headline, we have not become fully engaged in the battle on it because, to be honest, we want to save our effort for problems and inequities within the VA health care system itself.”
Mori, meanwhile, said the use of term “Jap” was officially condemned by Congress in 1986.
House Concurrent Resolution 290, which was passed on July 24, 1986, acknowledged that the term “Jap” was “racially derogatory and offensive” and endorsed the use of the abbreviation “Jpn” as the “appropriate” and “easily recognizable and racially inoffensive abbreviation for the terms ‘Japan’ and ‘Japanese.’”