Dad’s official diagnosis of “Battle Fatigue” is now compared to PTSD. Thousands of WWII combat veterans were treated at the time when little was known about PTSD.

by | Jul 26, 2011

Following is an excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story. 

“This man (Vernon H. Sparks, BMC, US Navy) was admitted to the sick list on July 23,1945 at the USNT&DC, Shoemaker, California, with combat fatigue, complaining of nervousness and irritability, and he was transferred here the same date.  According to the man’s statement, accepted by the board, he was in good health until the onset of his present symptoms.  He was aboard the USS West Virginia, torpedoed at Pearl Harbor, and was trapped below decks but worked his way clear and swam under burning oil to get away from the ship.  Since that time he has been moderately apprehensive while at sea and his symptoms became aggravated during the 7 Pacific invasions with ‘general quarters practically all the time.’  He returned to the mainland in June 1945, and all symptoms have subsided since admission, with psychotherapy and reassurance.  The physical examination and all indicated special studies are negative for essential organic pathology.  The psychiatric examination reveals a subsiding fatigue state in a previously stable individual with good insight and excellent service motivation.”  From my own perspective, and considering the standard mental health medical treatment procedures of the time, I can imagine that this was a very scary place for Dad to spend six weeks until released in September 1945.”

Following is the specific diagnosis of Vernon H. Sparks: “Combat Fatigue, #2171 Origin: Not Misconduct.  Tense, nervous, anxious, has shoulder that is easily dislocated.  Symptoms came on while at sea, tour of duty 66 months ending some 6 weeks ago.  Sleeps poorly, wakens often, nightmares of combat.  Appetite is variable.  He is sensitive to noise and crowds.  Startle Reaction.  He is moody at times.  Not suicidal.  He is fatigued.”

Dad was released from the hospital and returned to duty on September 6, 1945.  All of these symptoms are included in the modern set of symptoms referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Dad was severely damaged emotionally during his extended combat experience during WWII.  Dad came home a different man, who needed extensive treatment for a condition that was not well understood at the time.

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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