Friday, July 03, 2009

Enough To Make You Weep
"Those poor souls.They didn't have their fathers here."

Click on photo to enlarge.

Father And Son

The encounter of a father and son on Okinawa produced two poignant moments during the brutal campaign.

One of the most heart wrenching moments to occur on Okinawa involved a family with a proud Marine heritage. Colonel Francis I. Fenton enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1917. He gradually rose through the ranks until he became division engineer officer of the 1st Marine Division in July 1944. With this unit, Fenton won a Bronze Star for duty at Peleliu before landing on Okinawa.

While Colonel Fenton advanced to higher command, his younger son, Michael, enlisted in the Marine Corps on August 17, 1943, and joined B Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division - the same division in which his father commanded the engineers. Reportedly turning down a commission so he could fight at the front, Michael served as a scout-sniper at Okinawa.

Father and son met once during the fighting when their paths crossed at a partially destroyed Okinawan farmhouse. After exchanging news from home, including information on Michael's older brother, Francis, Jr., who had been commissioned a Marine officer in 1941, the two family members returned to their work.

They would never talk again. On May 7, 1945, while beating back a Japanese counterattack not far from Sugar Loaf, 19-year-old Pfc. Michael Fenton was killed. When his father received the bitter news, he traveled to the site of his son's death and knelt down to pray over the flagdraped body, a scene that produced one of the Pacific war's most touching photographs. Upon arising, Colonel Fenton stared at the bodies of other Marine dead and said, "Those poor souls.They didn't have their fathers here."

After the burial, Colonel Fenton returned to his headquarters and wrote a brief note to his wife, Mary, in San Diego. The Marine then resurfaced. Fenton fixed his attention on a large map hanging in his headquarters, studied it closely for a time, then said to his subordinate, "We'd better double the guard around No. 5 bridge. The Nips may try to blow it.” The war was back on.

Mary Fenton learned of her son's death before receiving her husband's letter. In fact, she experienced a bittersweet two days when, on Wednesday, a telegram arrived from the Marine Corps commandant informing her of Michael's death.The very next day came news that her husband had been awarded a second Bronze Star.

Mrs. Fenton told reporters she was proud that Michael had done his duty as a Marine. She quoted a recent letter from him in which the youth wrote that he "dedicated my life to my country" and that he was "prepared to die." Both Colonel Fenton and his older son survived the war. Colonel Fenton died on July 3, 1978.
Colonel Fenton ended his Marine Corps career as a Brigadeir General. His eldest son, Francis I. "Ike" Fenton, Junior, retired from the Corps at the rank of Colonel... and his son, George Fenton, retired as well, as a Colonel of Marines.

Sleep well, America. Your Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis.


Blogger the Egyptian said...

(sniff,wiping back my tears), A blessed 4th to all our service men everywhere, God love you all,and may Christ be at your side

6:42 PM  
Blogger chestertonian said...

You made me cry, Cavey. Thanks.

Watched part of Saving Private Ryan today on Youtube with my 9-year-old son Michael. Violent and brutal for one so young, I know, but I think it's important that he know the sacrifices our forefathers made on behalf of our country. One of my grandmother's brothers died at Normandy, and one of my grandfather's cousins died on the Bataan Death March.

Almost all the men in my family have served in the Armed Forces, almost all of them have been volunteers. Three of us -- me, my uncle, and my brother -- were Marines. My young nephew is trying to get into Annapolis -- Marine option.

God bless America, in spite of everything. Semper Fi and amen.

9:04 PM  
Blogger homeschoolofthree said...

I have never heard this before...what a moving story. May our loving God have Mercy on the souls of all the men and women who have fought for my freedom...and may I live a life worthy of their sacrifice!

2:30 AM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

Who says you can't serve at least some of your time in Purgatory here on earth? Col. Fenton, his wife and his other Marine son apparently did.

May his warrior son rest in peace.

4:52 PM  

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