Farmer, Roscoe L. Sr

Roscoe Lee Farmer, Sr. was born on February 20, 1923 to Leroy and Addie Farmer in Stanonburg, North Carolina. He was the only son of three children.

In 1930, his family moved to Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Roscoe attended local schools, and later found employment at Lukens Steel Company. He married Dorothy Martin and they lived in Coatesville.

Roscoe enlisted in the Navy in June, 1943. After basic training, he was assigned to serve as a Steward’s Mate on the new escort aircraft carrier: USS Liscome Bay CVE-56. Escort Aircraft Carriers were small carriers based on merchant ship hulls, and mass-produced (nearly 100 were constructed in World War II). The Liscome Bay was the 2nd ship of the 50 ship Casablanca Class. These “baby Flattops”, as they were sometimes called, were about 500ft in length, had a top speed of about 20 knots, and carried 20 to 35 aircraft. (Full size aircraft carriers were about 800 feet long, could make 33 knots and carried 100 aircraft.) The escort carriers served to provide air support for merchant convoys, aircraft for ground support for amphibious landings, and replacement aircraft for the big fleet carriers.
After training off the west coast, Roscoe’s ship departed for the Pacific Theater of Operations on October 21 1943, arriving in Hawaii a week later. The family received a Christmas card dated November 9th from Hawaii – the last time they heard from him.

Roscoe’s ship, the Liscome Bay, departed Hawaii on November 10 as part of a task force bound for the Gilbert Islands, America’s first major thrust in the central pacific. On November 20th, the amphibious landings began on Makin, and “Bloody” Tarawa.

The Liscome Bay’s 28 aircraft flew 2,278 sorties in 76-hour battle, against enemy airfields, and supporting the ground troops.

On November 23, the Liscome Bay was sailing south west of Butaritari Island ( in the Makin Atoll) in a small task group with a battleship and 2 other escort carriers. Reveille sounded at 4:30 a.m. and Roscoe was preparing breakfast for 860 men. Dawn General Quarters sounded at 5:05 a.m. as pilots prepared for their morning strikes. U.S.S. Liscome Bay

There was no warning of an enemy submarine in the area. The Japanese submarine I-175 arrived off Makin Island the previous day and was silently waiting for a prey. At 5:15 a.m. a lookout spotted a torpedo in the water headed for the ship and shouted the warning, but it was too late. The torpedo struck the ship just behind the after engine room with a tremendous explosion in the unarmored ship. Then a secondary explosion occurred and then the entire ship became an inferno. Sixteen minutes after being hit, the ship rolled over to the starboard side and sank.

The Admiral, the Captain and 644 of her crew went down with the ship. Only 272 of her crew were rescued.

Steward’s Mate Second Class Roscoe Lee Farmer Sr. was Killed In Action on November 23, 1943. A telegram was sent to his wife, Dorothy, but she was away visiting in North Carolina. The telegram was then delivered to his parents. The Telegram read:

 The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your husband, Roscoe Lee Farmer, Sr. is missing following action in performance of his duties and in the service of his country. The Department appreciates your great anxiety but details are not now available and delay in receipt thereof must necessarily be expected.

Signed by Rear Admiral Randal Jacobs, Chief of Navy Personnel

A year later, Roscoe's designation of Missing was officially changed to Killed In Action as of the day after the attack: November 24, 1943. 
Roscoe was survived by his wife and two children: Roscoe Jr., three years old, and Tyrone, 6 months old at the time of his death.

Roscoe is remembered on the Tables of the Missing in Action and Buried at Sea at the Honolulu Memorial  in Hawaii.

Research by Don Wambold, WCMSC