A local World War II veteran who grew up in Mansfield will be celebrating his 99th birthday this month.
James Doyne Farmer Sr. was born Nov. 21, 1918, in Ione. According to a book titled, "Full Circle: The Life of James Doyne Farmer, Sr." written by biographer and family historian Richard Belin, Farmer graduated from Mansfield High in 1937 at age 18. After graduation, he worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps for two years, although he was initially turned down because of bad vision in his left eye that caused him to fail the eye test. He reportedly passed on his third try after memorizing the eye chart.
In 1941, Farmer moved to Los Angeles, where Belin said he got a job at a plant that made beach umbrellas. Afterward, he worked for three months as a shipping clerk in a battery factory before starting at Northrop, where he worked as a sheet metal machinist at a plant that made fighter planes. The job exempted him from the draft, but by the end of 1942, Farmer had grown tired of people asking him why he was not in the Army and decided to expose himself to the draft.
"... But my brother (Donald), got through with a job in Utah someplace, and came into L.A. ... and wanted me to go home with him, to come back to Arkansas," Farmer said. "So I quit my job, and we drove from Los Angeles to Mansfield, and of course then, I had to tell the draft board in Sebastian County that I was not working, so they drafted me again."
Belin said after Farmer received his draft notice, he reported to the collection point in Fort Smith. He was put in charge of some area men, and they were all sent to Camp Robinson in Little Rock. Once there, Farmer said he was accepted into the Army.
"... I ask them about my eye," Farmer said. "They said, 'Well, that's good. You don't have to squint the left eye to shoot.'"
From there, Farmer underwent training in California, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia, Belin said. After being given two weeks' leave, during which Farmer said he went to Los Angeles, he was shipped to England around March 1944 along with a division of 15,000 men. His company was among a group staying at a country estate near Penzance in southwestern England.
Belin said Farmer got on a boat to Omaha Beach in France on June 12 six days after D-Day.
"I got off the landing craft (at Omaha Beach)," Farmer said. "I had my backpack, a rifle, a cartridge belt full of ammunition, and a bazooka and three rounds of bazooka ammunition ..."
Farmer's company was moved to a staging area around Saint-Lô during his first week in Normandy, Belin said. Farmer went to work with the supply group, Service Company, after one of the soldiers in the group was injured by a bomb and Farmer was chosen to replace him because he knew how to use a slide rule. He was responsible for planning and allocating supplies among his regiment, the 134th Infantry Regiment, which was a part of the 35th Infantry Division, which served under General George S. Patton.
After the 134th Regiment and the rest of Patton's forces broke through at Saint-Lô, Belin said Farmer and his fellow soldiers made their way farther into France. From Avranches, the regiment went through Orléans and Troyes to Nancy in eastern France. Farmer said it was during this time that he met Patton.
"I took three trucks and went back through Nancy, France, to get supplies ..." Farmer said. "And I was coming back, and here was this command car in the middle of the road, so I pulled up there and I saluted, and this guy got out of his commander car, and he had a pistol on both hips. ... I said, 'How are you, sir?' He says, 'What do you have on that truck, soldier?' I said, 'Rations.' ... He says, 'G-- d--- son of a b----, we can eat anytime! I need gasoline!' Then he waved us on."
After participating in the Battle of the Bulge, the 134th Regiment marched from Belgium to Holland and then into Germany, Belin said. Farmer said he felt mostly scared during the war, a feeling his fellow men also experienced.
"Some of them were scared so bad, they did foolish things," Farmer said. "... Like if we were being bombed, they'd get out of their foxhole and start shooting, trying to shoot the plane down. ... They tried to shoot the plane down with a M-1 rifle."
When the Germans surrendered on May 7, 1945, Farmer said he was very happy about it.
"But the thing I was the happiest about was we were in Camp Lucky Strike in France getting ready to be shipped to the states to get ready to go to Japan, and the Japanese surrendered," Farmer said. "And boy ... people can complain about the atomic bomb in Japan, but it sure saved me a lot of worry."
Farmer was honorably discharged from the Army Sept. 22, 1945 at Fort MacArthur, Calif., according to Belin's book.
Farmer currently lives in Fort Smith with his wife, Betty, who he married in 1993. He has two sons from a previous marriage, as well as seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Asked what she thought of Farmer's time of service, Betty Farmer described Farmer as very strong both physically and mentally.
"And I think that he was just one of the best," Betty Farmer said. "Whatever he was in the Army, he was just probably one of the best because he's been that way all his life, and he's a very caring person. He has a very good sense of right and wrong. ... He's not very outgoing, but ... when he does meet people, it's usually a lasting friendship. ... He's the love of my life."
Betty Farmer said the past 24 years have been the happiest time of her life.
Farmer said when he recalls his military service, he does not worry about it because he was not wounded once during the war.