Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

JESSE FARMER

 

 

 


4TH MARINE DIVISION

PATCH


Jesse J. Farmer

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 Marines, WWII, Pacific

Jesse J. Farmer was born in Devine, Texas in 1926, the first of three children born to James T. and Bessie (Rogers) Farmer.  In his early childhood, his family moved to Uvalde.  His father became chronically ill there while working for a car dealership, so they moved to Llano, the parental home of Jess’ mother.  After some months in Llano, her family set her up in business and she operated a store in Travis County at “4-points” (intersection of today’s RM 2222 and RM 620).  When Jess was about 13, his mother turned the store over to her brother and they moved into Austin.

They lived in the 10th Ward in east Austin where he attended 6th grade.  His mother found work doing bookbinding of government publications in the basement of the State Capitol while Jess cared for his younger brother and sister.  Jess also found time to work as a paperboy, selling newspapers on Congress Avenue.

In his young teenage years, he spent some time living with his grandmother in Llano.  Also, one summer Jess and a cousin worked at “Rue’s Harbor,” a recreation area cabin rental business on Lake Buchanan at Tow.  After the summer rental season ended, Jess went to stay in Kerrville at the home of the owner, Maude Rue, for the fall semester of school, and then returned home to Austin.

When he was sixteen, his mother advised him to drop out of school and seek employment.  He found work with Taylor Construction Company on a contract for building (what is known today as) North Fort Hood.  He worked putting in the power lines and setting and anchoring the light poles.  Jess was able to come home on weekends, Austin not being too far from Camp Hood.  By this time, his cousin was in the Marine Corps and he urged Jess to join also.  So, Jess got his mother to sign her permission and he enlisted promptly after his seventeenth birthday.

Jess Farmer was inducted into the Marine Corps at San Antonio, Texas on July 17, 1943 and was immediately sent to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California for “boot camp.”  From there he was sent to Camp Pendleton to Tent Camp #1 and assigned to a unit.  Company G, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division became his home for the duration of the war.  The division trained at Camp Pendleton for the remainder of 1943 and in January 1944 deployed from the United States directly into combat in the Pacific Theatre.  It was the first entire division to have done so.

Jess says, “We shipped directly to the Marshall Islands.  Roi and Namur were the main islands, but my unit went to a string of little islands, ten or twelve of them, down the chain.  They were coral islands and the water between them was very shallow.  We simply walked across the coral bottom, wading from one island to the next.  When we got to the last island a whole group of people came out waving a white flag.  These were not Japanese soldiers, but they were islanders and imported Asian workers, there doing forced labor for the Japanese military. After securing those, we were moved to Kwajalein Island, which had been taken earlier, and after about ten days there we were shipped to Maui in the Hawaiian Islands (the division arrived there on March 10, 1944).  Maui would be our home base in the Pacific for the remainder of the war.

The taking of the Marianas Islands was next and on the first day (June 15, 1944) my unit was in the first wave of the assault landings on Saipan.  The AMTRAC that I was on was under fire as we were heading in towards the beach.  My flame thrower gunner was hit (I was his assistant), so I strapped on the flame thrower.  As we were reaching the shore I went over the side of the AMTRAC and jumped into the surf, injuring my back when I came down. In the excitement of combat I continued on despite the pain, little realizing that I had done permanent injury to my vertebrae.

After having moved in from the shore, my element approached one of our amphibious tanks that had stopped facing toward a bunker, and was told some of the enemy were in the bunker.  I turned on the hydrogen bottle and activated the igniter and then cleared out the bunker. It was a bad feeling, I put down the empty flame thrower, left it there and moved on without it.  Our flame throwers were filled with heavy motor oil, or maybe diesel, as an expedient.  The Army supplied napalm (jellied gasoline) for their flame throwers but there was none for the Marines, anyway that’s what we were told.

Later in the day Jess relates that Company G had moved forward, passing their planned objective (designated on the map as the “Oh-One” Line) for the first day, and found themselves in an open field where they came under heavy fire and were taking casualties.  Jess took cover as best he could, getting down in a furrow as low as he could get.  That still wasn’t low enough.  Two machine gun bullets hit and went through the front of his helmet, without leaving a mark on him. Jess says, Company G was ordered to pull back to the “Oh-One Line” for the night. We picked up our wounded and carried them back with us.  On the way back we stopped at a house that we had passed during our advance earlier in the day and we went inside for water.  A tank was approaching just as we were coming out of the house and as our first man, one of my buddies, had stepped outside one of the tank crewmen shot and killed him. He said he thought he looked like an Asian.

Also very vivid in my memory of that first day on Saipan was the sight of the battleship, Tennessee, out away from us firing those big guns in support.

A couple of days later the new Company Commander, Captain London, designated me as his messenger and from that time on I accompanied him wherever he went (our first commander had been one of the early casualties).  After Saipan had been secured, we next took Tinian and then went back to Maui” (4th Marine Div was in combat on Saipan from 15 June—13July 1944, and in combat on Tinian from 25 July—2 August 1944, then were back at Maui from 22 August 1944—15 January 1945).

“My last combat operation was at Iwo Jima. We had been in the first wave at Saipan, but we were in the fifth wave going in at Iwo. After getting ashore we came upon some tanks that had been in the earlier landings and we passed one that had been hit.  Sherman Tanks were called “Ronson’s” because they would light up every time, and that one surely had.  The burned out tank and the dead crew were a gruesome sight.

Sometime after that I went down when hit by a burst of machine gun fire, or rather I thought I was hit because I felt the impact and then could feel blood running down my back.  Captain London stripped off my pack and found a bullet had passed between me and the pack, leaving a red streak across my back and giving me a sensation that I was bleeding, but leaving the skin unbroken.  It was another narrow escape.  I got up and we went on.

Late in the day, just as dusk was falling, our position came under heavy fire from Japanese mortars and I was wounded in the barrage.  A mortar fragment went completely through my upper right arm hitting an artery on the way. I lost a lot of blood.  Earlier, I had been with a Corpsman who had more supplies than he could carry and he had given me a large bandage that I had stuffed in a pocket of my dungarees.  That big bandage was just what I needed, and I used it to staunch the bleeding.  I was taken back to the beach along with other walking wounded. We got there just as a Higgins Boat loaded with wounded was about to leave.  A Corpsman held it up saying they could take one more walking wounded and they put me on board just as it was pulling out.  We had barely gotten away from the shore when a heavy barrage came down on that area of the beach that was still loaded with casualties” (Jess Farmer was one of the 2,420 Marine Corps casualties sustained in the first day’s fighting on Iwo Jima).

Jess Farmer was treated for his wounds on a Liberty Ship that had been configured as a Hospital Ship and he remained on that vessel for several days. His dungarees had been cut off of him and he had nothing remaining of his battle dress and equipment. He found some uniform items, but was confronted while trying to gather up some combat gear so he could go ashore and get back with Company G.  He was told, You aren’t going back to your unit, you are going to (the hospital in) Guam.”

He remembers one morning hearing a tremendous explosion on the ship. Going forward to see what happened, a large caliber shell had hit the ship and left big holes going in one side and out the other side, fortunately without having exploded.

The hospital on Guam was in rows of very long tents.  The island had long since been officially secured, however a few isolated enemy troops were still hiding out there.  One night a Japanese machine gunner came up in the dark and fired on the hospital.  That put a lot of holes in Jess Farmer’s tent, but he and everyone else was on the floor and none of them were hit.  By the time he had recuperated from his wounds, the fighting on Iwo Jima had ended so when Jess was sent back to his unit the 4th Marine Division was back in their base camp on Maui. Company G had no more than 70-80 men from when the company was originally formed, and some of those, like Jess Farmer, had been returned to duty after being wounded.  The division was being prepared for the invasion of the Japanese mainland when V-J Day came and the war ended.

Jess was discharged at Camp Pendleton, California on October 29, 1945 and returned home to Austin, Texas.  His mother was a waitress at the Hoffbrau Haus and that was better paying work than her earlier job at the Capitol, because politicians and government officials made up a lot of the clientele in those days and they were big tippers.  Jess started vocational training using his “G.I. Bill” benefits.  He did on-the-job training as a technician at Capitol Chevrolet, at their location in downtown Austin, for eighteen months, being paid $60 monthly in benefits plus 50 cents an hour from Capitol Chevrolet.  After completion of training he remained working there, for owner John Nash Sr., at Capitol Chevrolet.  It was there that Jess says the most important thing in his life happened.

Capitol Chevrolet was located conveniently across the street from a café where the employees took their coffee breaks.  Girls that worked at the Texas Employment Commission at 5th and San Jacinto also took their breaks at that café and that’s where Jess first met Wynnell “Nell” Dixon. Jess and Nell started dating in 1947 and they were soon married.  Their two children, a son and a daughter were born while Jess was working in Austin.  After 15 years, he was transferred to Corpus Christi and moved there with his family.

Jess had developed a reputation as a technician especially skilled in working on high performance engines and he not only built up a customer base among the local stock car racing enthusiasts, but he and his family made many friends among them as well. Nell had always been adventuresome and she got into drag race competition.  She won a lot of races in Corpus driving a 1960 El Camino that Jess kept finely tuned for the sponsor/owner.

In 1979 Jess was transferred back to Austin, this time as Shop Foreman at Capitol Chevrolet (by then under owner John Nash Jr.), and he continued there until retirement in 1992.  Jess Farmer joined Chapter 1919 as soon as he found out about us in 1995.  He had just missed being a charter member, and he served as Sergeant-At-Arms during Chapter 1919’s early years.  Nell had disabilities and Jess had to give up chapter activities in order to be her caregiver as her condition worsened in the years before her death. At the current time he once again is enjoying getting out to meetings, and this month, PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salutes Patriot Jesse J. Farmer.

 


Upon his return after being discharged from the Marines in October 1945, Jess’ mother took these kodak snapshots of him and his brother, Jack outside their home.

Jess’ mother also took care to write notes on the back of the photos, expressions of pride in her sons and relief that jess was home safe from the war.

“Marine AmTrac going ashore in the Marshall Islands, February 1944”

Jesse Farmer's Picture
Iwo Jima Monument

Jesse Farmer's
Induction Certificate
Jesse Farmer's
Mustering Out Payment Certificate

Jesse Farmer with his Marine Boot Camp
1943

(Jesse is the end man on the right, 4th row up)

Jesse's rare copy of his Purple Heart Medal awarded by the 4th Marine Division

COFFEE BAR VOLUNTEER

JESS FARMER

JESS FARMER

December 2009


TOP PHOTO

 

JESSE J. FARMER

USMC 1943


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