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)
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
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
lived in the 10th Ward in east
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
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
After the summer rental season
ended, Jess went to stay in
at the home of the owner, Maude Rue, for the fall semester of school, and
then returned home to
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)
He worked putting in the power
lines and setting and anchoring the light poles.
Jess was able to come home on
Austin not being too
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
on July 17, 1943 and was immediately sent to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot
for “boot camp.”
From there he was sent to
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
for the remainder of 1943 and in January 1944 deployed from the
directly into combat in the Pacific Theatre.
It was the first entire
division to have done so.
“We shipped directly to the Marshall Islands.
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
which had been taken earlier, and after about ten days there we were shipped
to Maui in the
arrived there on March 10, 1944).
would be our home base in the Pacific for the remainder of the war.
The taking of the
was next and on the first day (June 15, 1944) my unit was in the first wave
of the assault landings on
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
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.
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
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
from 22 August 1944—15 January 1945).
“My last combat operation was at
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.
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.
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
I got up and we went
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.
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
Jess Farmer was treated for his wounds on a
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)
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
was in rows of very long tents.
The island had long since been
officially secured, however a few isolated enemy troops were still hiding
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
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
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
The division was being prepared
for the invasion of the Japanese mainland when V-J Day came and the war
Jess was discharged at
October 29, 1945 and returned home to
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.
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
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.
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
Employment Commission at 5th and
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
Their two children, a son and a
daughter were born while Jess was working in
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
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.