Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

JAMES W. FARMER SR.
1918 - 2005

 

1st Cavalry Division patch

5th Cavalry Regimental crest

JAMES W. FARMER, SR.

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 (ARMY, WWII, Europe) Article December 1998

Jim Farmer was a cavalry trooper in George Patton’s command before WWII and he had personal interactions with him almost daily for several years.  They were together again from the close of the war in Europe up until the month before the General Patton’s death.   Jim did not enjoy or benefit from their relationship. In the closing days of the war in Germany, Jim Farmer, acting alone, captured more enemy soldiers in a single action than did Sergeant York in WWI; and for this Jim was honored with America’s second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross.  Here are a few glimpses from his many years of service. 

James Farmer enlisted in the Army in 1935 and was assigned to the 5th U.S. Cavalry Regiment on the border at Fort Clark, Texas. That first year, the 17-yr old Jim, resplendent in his new Cavalry Troopers uniform, got to return home to Corsicana on Christmas leave. In those pre-WWII days, General Jonathan Wainwright was in command at Fort Clark and Colonel George Patton had command of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.  Colonel Patton, very much the officer and gentleman, was a wealthy man who personally owned a string of Polo ponies and other fine horses, all of which were maintained in the cavalry stables. Trooper Jim Farmer was given responsibility for the care of Colonel Patton's horses. Patton took great pride in his animals and he visited the stables daily to look them over and appraise their condition (for which he held Jim to be strictly accountable). On one such visit Patton's practiced eye detected what, in his opinion, had to be salt deficiency in one of his favorite mounts, and he questioned Jim about it. Trooper Farmer responded they did too have enough salt, he made sure they received the same Quartermaster ration of salt as did the government cavalry stock. Not to be bested, Patton retorted, that must be it! Government-issue salt wasn't nearly good enough for his fine horses. They should receive only the very best. With those words Patton tossed Jim Farmer the keys to his shiny new Lincoln and told him to go to the Post Exchange and get some of the good stuff, Morton's, “when it rains, it pours”, salt.  Jim says, “Now, back home I had driven a Model-T Ford, but that big Lincoln was intimidating, I couldn't even figure out where the key went. So, I ran the half-mile to the PX in record time and came back huffing-and-puffing with the salt.” When I answered Colonel Patton's question about why I was out of breath, he just muttered something disparaging about my young country-boy origins. That’s pretty much how it went in all my almost daily interactions with Patton, cold and always strictly impersonal. One time, I would hold the horse's head when he prepared to mount and he would say, “this horse knows what he's doing, you come help me up”. The next time I would go to help him up in the saddle and he would curtly snap,  “I don't need your help, you hold the horse's head so it doesn't move”. I was always left knowing there was something that didn’t quite suit him, and that seemed to be precisely the feeling that he wanted to impart.  That didn’t just apply to me, but to everyone else around him also.”

Trooper James W. Farmer was sub­sequently selected for Cavalry Officers Candidate School at Fort Riley, Kansas. He received his commis­sion in 1942 and was soon sent to Europe.  He served throughout the European campaigns all across France and Germany with the 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion (Mechanized). The 38th Cavalry was a hard-working recon unit assigned at theatre level. Typical missions were to screen wide expanses on the flanks or between the field armies, and as a result, Lieutenant Farmer and all the other junior officers had many occasions to personally brief General Omar Bradley, and many of the other senior general officers.

Jim Farmer was in B Troop on September 13, 1944 when he was wounded in action after having scouted up to an undefended segment in the Siegfried Line. Month’s later, on a day near the close of the war, in the Spring of 1945, while conducting a recon far forward, the machine gun had jammed on 1st Lt Jim Farmer’s vehicle as it approached a town.  There was no sign of enemy activity, but they stopped to clear the malfunction.  As the crew worked to get the gun back into action, Jim dismounted and, armed only with his carbine, walked on up the road, alone, into the town.  He turned a corner and stepped directly into the path of 400 dispirited, retreating German troops (who were nonetheless armed and dangerous). Jim shouted an order for them to surrender.  One made a sudden move with his rifle and Jim shot him; the rest put down their weapons and raised their hands in surrender to a lieutenant with an M-1 Carbine. Only days later, Jim Farmer was promoted to Captain and put in command of C Troop. Eventually, he would receive the Distinguished Service Cross as a result of his actions in that incident. 

When the war in Europe came to a close, Captain Farmer’s C Troop was in Pilzen, Czechoslovakia.  As fate would have it, General George Patton established his 15th Army Headquarters in Pilzen and Jim's unit was selected to provide General Patton's Honor Guard. There were many post-victory ceremonies with the Russians and other visitors in the weeks and months following, and the men of C Troop turned out in their spit-shined finest to line the entrance and perform as the General’s honor guard. General Patton may have recognized Jim Farmer from their earlier days at Fort Clark, but if so, he never let him know it. Jim returned to the United States in November 1945 and General Patton died the following month, the result of a tragic vehicle accident.

James Farmer would later command a Transportation Corps unit during the Korean War.  He closed out his Army career with an assignment in the Army ROTC instructor unit at the University of Texas, retired in 1963, and has made his home in Austin since that time.

 

James W. Farmer Sr. provided this story for publication in the December 1998 issue of PATRIOT BULLETIN.   Jim died in August 2005.

TROOPER JIM  FARMER mounted on TINKLE BELL [a good polo pony]

TROOP E, 5TH CAVALRY ON MANEUVERS AT BALMORHEA, TEXAS IN OCTOBER 1939

WITH A CAPTURED GERMAN 88mm GUN IN A TOWN 12 Km FROM REMAGEN THAT HAD JUST BEEN CAPTURED BY JIM FARMER'S C TROOP ON THE SAME DAY THAT THE REMAGEN BRIDGE WAS CAPTURED.

left -1st Lt Jim Farmer; center - Lt Col O'Brien; right - a V Corps Hqs. Brigadier General

CAPT JAMES FARMER, COMMANDER, TROOP C, 38TH RECON SQDN, 102ND CAVALRY GROUP WITH HIS M-8 ARMORED CAR IN A SMALL TOWN 15 Km FROM PILSEN, CZECHOSLOVAKIA, MAY 1945

LT. COL. JAMES FARMER (R), RECEIVING CONGRATULATIONS FROM

COL. HERBERT BROWN (L), PMS&T, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS ARMY ROTC INSTRUCTOR UNIT, AT JIM'S RETIREMENT CEREMONY ON THE UT CAMPUS, APRIL 1963.

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