Memories of war: Winchester resident Frank N. Farmer recalls days of military service

Published 2:11 pm Monday, February 27, 2023

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Frank N. Farmer was only 17 when he joined the armed services after receiving parental consent.

Though unlikely by today’s standards, times were different in 1944.

Farmer, the last surviving member of his ship – the USS LCS(L)- lives in Winchester.

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“We have nobody left but me,” said Farmer. “Some of them were a little bit older than me, and some of them were about the same age as me.”

Starting in 1987, Farmer – who kept in touch with some fellow soldiers – was able to reconnect with others.

The group of survivors had at least 20 reunions, the first being in Lexington, as were well-documented in books present at Farmer’s home.

At least 37 were present at the first one.

Farmer, a native of Norton, Virginia, told how he came to join the United States Navy.

“I had two brothers. One of them got drafted, the other enlisted, and they were already overseas in the combat zone,” Farmer said. “When my seventeenth birthday rolled around, I told my old man, ‘If you don’t sign, I’m gone.’…He finally [came] to it because he was an ex-Navy man too. He’d been in the Navy in World War I.”

Before long, Farmer found himself in boot camp.

“They took most of this crew and put them in gunner’s mate school to learn how to handle these guns, how to repair them, and how to service them every day,” he said.

Shortly after, Farmer and his shipmates found themselves at war in the Pacific.

Specifically, they were about one-quarter of a mile off the island of Iwo Jima.

Considered one of the war’s significant battles involving the Navy and the United States Marine Corps, the Battle of Iwo Jima killed thousands of marines in approximately 30 days.

With Japanese forces having higher ground, American troops found climbing difficult.

“The whole island was buried. They later found some caves that were nine stories deep. That’s how deep those [Japanese] guys got in. You talk about a tough time,” Farmer said.

During that time, Farmer and other soldiers on his LCS – short for Landing Craft Support – tried to ward off enemy forces.

A picture inside Farmer’s home depicted such action.

“We launched rockets there for about a month,” he said. “We fired about sixteen of them at a time. We had rocket launchers 40 millimeters and 50 calibers all over the place.”

Eventually, American forces would conquer Iwo Jima, and several placed an American flag at the top of Mount Suribachi.

“Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” by Joe Rosenthal has become one of the most iconic photos in American history.

A statue of it has even been erected outside of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Not only does Farmer recall seeing this action from the ship, he knew Private First Class Franklin Sousley – one of the men involved in raising the flag.

Sousley would sadly be killed in action shortly after that.

For his service, Farmer received numerous medals.

Among them were the Commendation Medal, Victory Medal, Asiatic Pacific (3 Battle Stars), Combat Action Medal, American Theater Campaign Medal, Phillippine Liberation Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, and Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.

Once the war concluded, Farmer stayed involved in the Armed Forces.

He was in the United States Marine Corps Reserves, and proudly displays plaques stating that he has been honorably discharged from both military branches.

Later, he would return to Virginia to work in the feed business and eventually came to Winchester, where he started working at Keller Farm Service, Inc.

Farmer would then transition to the automotive industry, selling vehicles that included Ford and Chevrolet brands.

He worked as a supervisor and sometimes had nearly thirty people working under his leadership.

It was a skill he’d come to know well.

“I got with Freedom Dodge it was the biggest Dodge dealer east of the Mississippi River,” Farmer added. “We had a big business and had more people than I’d ever seen in there.”

Farmer became a father of two daughters and has two grandchildren.

A military man through thick and thin, Farmer proudly shows off his memorabilia and tells stories while wearing his World War II veterans hat.

He thinks the future generations can learn much.

“I think they’ll get a lesson from it,” Farmer said.