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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

ALL HANDS AND THE SHIP'S COOK: NEW POEMS FROM MIKE TANK


"ALL HANDS AND THE SHIP'S COOK -- NEW POEMS FROM MIKE TANK"

The following is a selection from GyG'sMailbag, from "Sully"

For: All Hands and the Ship's Cook.
Subject: New Poems by Mike Tank.

Have added two new poems by Mike Tank to our web
site, "My Father's Tears," and "Nightmare #9."

Please look at the background photo on "My
Father's Tears." I saw this photo many years ago
for the first time, and to me it is one that
rivals the second flag raising photo on Iwo Jima.
When I saw the photo initially, it had to be
during the summer of 1945. I was on Okinawa at
the time, and, of course the photo was taken on
Okinawa. It shows a father kneeling by the
stretcher of his son, who had just been killed in
action. The original caption read:

"6/14/45 MARINE FUNERAL IN OKINAWA WORLD WAR II.
Lest we forget--this photo shows how one father
spent Father's Day. Marine Colonel Francis I.
Fenton of San Diego, Calif. kneels beside the
flag-draped body of his son, Pfc. Michael Fenton,
killed in action in Okinawa. Michael, 19, was a
scout-sniper in the first Marine Division, in
which his father is a regimental commander. Of
the boys who died with his son, Col Fenton said,
"The poor souls, they didn't have their fathers
here."

When I first saw the photo I had no idea who Col
Fenton or his son Mike were. A very few years
later, I was to meet Mike's twin brother in the
1stMarDiv at Camp Pendleton prior to the Korean
War in 1950. His name? Why Ike, of course. By
that time Col Fenton, retired as a BGen, had been
killed by a drunken driver in an automobile
accident. Now, only Ike was left to carry on the
Fenton name in the Corps. Ike went to Korea with
the 1stProvMarBrigade in July '50 as an
understudy to Captain John Tobin, CO of "B"
Company, 1/5. Those of you who may know the
photos of David Douglas Duncan, collected in the
coffee table sized photo-journalist book "This Is
War," have seen the picture of Captain Ike
Fenton. Captain John Tobin had been seriously
wounded and left the company a few hours before
the picture was snapped during the first Battle
of the Naktong. Ike, now commanding "B" Company,
stands in a pouring rain, with a fire fight
raging on all sides, as he was told, "Captain,
we're almost out of ammunition." Every time I
see that photo I think of the biblical Job,
already beset with nearly every affliction on the
face of the earth, being told that there is a
huge hole in the Ark. I'll see if we can't get
that picture posted here one of these days just
so you'll be able to judge whether my take on the
photo is the same as yours.

"Nightmare #9" is another on the theme of Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is an
underlying thread of PTSD that runs through so
many of the writings and poetry that emanates
from veterans of all wars. Many of you reading
this will recognize precisely what Mike describes
in his poem. A few nights ago I was watching the
biography of Lee Marvin. As some of you are
aware, Lee was a Marine PFC wounded seriously on
Saipan in June '44. Lee, although a talented
actor, had the same trouble "finding himself"
when the war was over, and eighteen months in
hospital recovering from his physical wound. His
psychic wound would never heal. His social
history is full of broken relationships and
marriages. It is also full of a continuing story
of drug and alcohol addiction. Lee's second wife
was interviewed for the biography, and her
description of Lee's behavior could have been
taken directly from the description of PTSD in
the American Psychiatric Association's
"Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)."

The problem for Lee Marvin, and other vets of WW
II and Korea, is that PTSD was not "invented"
until the third edition of the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual III was published in 1980.
Anyone complaining of the symptoms of PTSD was
told to "Get over it." Now we know that
sufferers of chronic PTSD have had biological
changes to the brain that no one is ever going to
get over. Psychotropic medicines help many
sufferers, but they are palliative at best. The
essential condition remains, and will emerge
inevitably when the meds are stopped.

If you enjoy Mike's poems, why not drop him a
line and tell him so at michaeltank@cox.net

As always, please go to my site at
http://www.sullyusmc.com, click on "Menu,"
"Writers and Stories," "Mike Tank," and finally
his poems "My Father's Tears," and "Nightmare
#9." Should you wish to be dropped from my
distribution list for this site, just drop me an
email with "Remove" as the subject. "Stay off
the Skyline. Keep a ten pace interval."

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This is...
Gunny G's Marines
GLOBE and ANCHOR Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72

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