COX John Wilson Farmer,

Unknown Sailor

COX John Wilson Farmer

John Wilson Farmer was born Aug. 12, 1920 in Tennessee. His mother, Artie Little Farmer,  was a homemaker, and his father, John F. Farmer, a coal miner.

The son, known as Bill, attended school in Rockwood, Tennessee west of Knoxville, and enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 27, 1939. He was a coxswain and petty officer third class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

In an interview in May 1942 — when the Navy published its first comprehensive casualty list of the war — Mrs. Farmer showed a reporter the Jan. 26 telegram she’d received notifying her of her son’s death. The reporter noted that the telegram was “rumpled by many readings.”

A younger brother, Willard, was a member of the First Marine Division, which was awarded a presidential unit citation for its performance in the Guadalcanal campaign. The youngest brother, Everett, also became a Marine.

It is likely that John Wilson Farmer was married and had a daughter who died in childhood, but no publicly available records could be found to identify them.

One of his cherished possessions, a six-string mail-order guitar made in the 1930s, survives him. He had it with him on the Arizona but brought it home to his mother while on leave in 1940. The Slingerland guitar was a May-Bell model.

A nephew, Bill Farmer, inherited the guitar from his father, Everett. It stayed in a closet and Bill wasn’t permitted to touch it until he was 16. After he became an adult, Bill guarded the guitar through several moves — even keeping it in his truck for two years..

He planned to donate it in December 2020 to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Museum, but Covid-19 postponed his travel plans.


Sources: Census; Navy muster roll; U.S. Department of Defense; the Chattanooga (Tennessee) Daily Times; reporter Mark Kennedy at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Special thanks to nephew Bill Farmer for sharing the photo. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

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