Honoring Chuck Tatum – Iwo Jima Veteran and “The Cars of Johnny Dark”

Chuck Tatum and Bruce Glascock in June 2008. Bruce and I stopped by to Visit Chuck on Our Way to the Palo Alto Concours. Chuck is on the Left (toward front of car) and Bruce Glascock is on the Right.

Hi Gang…

In honor of the HBO Miniseries honoring those who fought in WWII – “The Pacific” – which just came to a close, I thought this might be a good time to discuss my good friend Chuck Tatum – an Iwo Jima veteran and his involvement in the movie “Johnny Dark”.  First, Chuck’s history…

Chuck Tatum and Iwo Jima

Chuck is a WWII veteran and spent time in the battle of Iwo Jima.  He survived and returned home a recipient of the Bronze Star.  From that point forward, Chuck has seen to it that part of his life’s mission is to remember his friends who were lost during the battle, and those that fought with him.  There’s a great video interview with him – about 3 minutes long – on the following website:

http://tinyurl.com/37fc5yt

Here’s a 3 minute video on Chuck’s memories on going from Hawaii to Iwo Jima:

http://tinyurl.com/2f459gl

And here’s another 3 minute video on Chuck discussing the battle:

http://tinyurl.com/2a7xoef

Furthering his dedication to ensure history is remembered, Chuck spent nearly a decade researching his book on Iwo Jima interviewing over 150 veterans of the battle.  You can read about Chuck and his story here:

Great Picture Taken in 1953 at the Golden Gate Speedway by Dan Nichols. Chuck Manning is Behind the Wheel and Chuck Tatum is Standing at the Passenger Side of Car. Thanks to Dan Nichols for Sharing This Photo

http://www.marineswwii.com/index.php

For those of you interested, you can purchase his book and / or the DVD “Red Blood Black Sand” via this website too.

HBO Miniseries:  The Pacific

“Red Blood, Black Sand” was recently used in the recent HBO miniseries, “The Pacific” which was a history of WWII in the Pacific.  The series was heralded as a tribute to servicemen and the times they lived in.  You can read more about this mini-series on the following website.

http://www.hbo.com/the-pacific/index.html

Chuck also was the keynote speaker at a WWII tribute on the USS Hornet – a Salute for WWII Veterans.  You can review the story here:

http://tinyurl.com/2w94zv8

I wanted to honor and recognize Chuck for his contributions as a serviceman to our country and his dedication as a historian to remembering our World War II heros.  Thank you, Chuck, for everything you’ve done for our country and helping those of us who came after you to recognize the sacrifices made by you, your friends, and our fellow Americans.

The Tatum Special at the Start of the Second Race in the Movie "Johnny Dark". Chuck's Car Was Called the "Antelope Special" for the Movie. It Started 6 out of a field of 8 - and Chuck was Inching Forward in the Field in Every Scene.

Chuck Tatum and “Johnny Dark”

Chuck has had one busy life.   And he’s still going strong this year at 84 years of age.

After the war, he started racing in Stockton California.  I recently found newspaper articles of his exploits from 1949.  Chuck continued racing through the 1950’s and beyond.  His personal racecar – the “Tatum Special” which was built from scratch – was on the cover of Motor Life in August 1954, featured in Car Craft December 1953, MotorLife September 1954, Hot Rod October 1953, and others as well.

It was at the Santa Barbara Road race on Labor Day in 1953 that he made the connection with Universal Studios to participate in the movie “Johnny Dark” (click here to learn more about that 1953 race).   Chuck was coming home from a race, and stopped at the airport to watch the rest of the day. 

They were filming the race that day for “Johnny Dark” (click here to learn more about the movie) and approached Chuck seeking his car and driving talent for the movie.  They even asked him to take the car on the track for a short “demo” – which is the picture you see of Chuck in the earlier article on our website concerning the Santa Barbara Race.

The Tatum Special Today - at Home in Chris Wickersham's Garage - The Car Looks Stunning as Ever - What a Great Survivor!

I’ve included a few pictures of the Tatum Special from the movie – below in our picture gallery.  I hope you enjoy – it’s a beautiful car.

Fast Forward – the 1990’s and 2000’s

Chuck’s car was lost for years but he was alerted by his friend, Pat Craig, also of Stockton California, that the car existed in Stockton, and could be had – and that’s exactly what he did.  Chuck bought the car and restored it.  The Tatum Special is now in the hands of collector Chris Wickersham of Los Angeles California – a consummate car collector and restorer.  And it’s worth mentioning that Chris is at least the second generation or builders and restorers in his family.  When I was visiting Chris in 2009, he shared with me a Petersen Motorama trophy that his father had won in 1952.  Chris is certainly the right guy for celebrating this car.

1990 Sports Car International Article

The best article I’ve found so far was printed in the July 1990 edition of “Sports Car International”.  It’s a great read and worth every minute if you take the time to review the article below.   I encourage you to do so – you’ll learn more about Chuck and his car as well.

Epilogue:

Fantastic 6 Cylinder GMC Engine - Read the Article Below to Learn More About How Chuck Prepared This Engine to Win Race Events Throughout California in the 1950's.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the story about Chuck Tatum, his service during World War II, and his exploits with the “Tatum Special” and the movie Johnny Dark.  I hope that Chuck will put to paper his memories of his own life building and racing sports cars, and share the stories – small and large – that I know each of us would enjoy and be honored to read.

Put me down for a copy of your book – Chuck.  I’ll patiently (and eagerly) await its completion.

And….a salute to Chuck Tatum, his service to our country and his race car exploits as well.  And…most importantly, thanks to him for his friendship to our fiberglass group and myself too.

Glass on gang…

Geoff

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