Edgar J. Farley
Pvt. Edgar J. Farley was born May 8, 1921 (possibly 1922), and lived with his parents, Louis and Ocie (Osie) Rowe Farley. Most likely he was known as “Jack” and was born in Kentucky as his father hailed from that state, and that is where the family was domiciled in 1930. The Federal Census of that year shows there were two siblings, Louis and Eloise. At the time of his enlistment in the military, however, he was living in Edgarton, Mingo County, West Virginia. Other details of Pvt. Farley’s life are sketchy, but it is known that he was a member of Battery C of the 68th Coast Artillery Regiment in World War II.
According to Richard V. Horrell, “Military History: Battery A 68th AAA Gun Battalion” [retrieved August 31, 2011, from http://en.allexperts.com/q/Military-History-669/2010/12/Battery-68th-AAA-Gun.htm], the 68th Coast Artillery Regiment embarked from Hampton Roads, Virginia, on November 2, 1942, and arrived in a fourteen-ship convoy at Casablanca, Morocco, on November 18. August 9, 1943, found the 68th in Sicily, and they arrived in Naples, Italy, on October 31.
Pvt. Farley was one of a number of Americans who lost their lives in what has been called one of the greatest naval disasters of the war, the sinking of the LST 422. In Bastard Battalion: A History of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion in WWII (Charleston, WV: 35th Star Publishing, 2009), Terry Lowry recounts the story of that tragedy. In mid-January 1944, plans for an amphibious invasion of Anzio and Nettuno, Italy, were underway, and by January 22, the beaches adjacent to these two cities had been cleared. The 68th Coast Artillery Regiment was heavily involved in these operations.
Midnight of January 25-26 saw Companies C and D of the 83rd Battalion on the LST 422, offshore Anzio. Also on the ship were twenty-three men of the 2nd Battalion of the 68th Coast Artillery—Farley’s regiment. Under the direction of British LST Lt. Commander Colin Broadhurst, the naval vessel, which had been built in the U.S., but lend-leased to the British, carried not only members of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion and the 68th Coast Artillery Regiment, but sixty-five British officers and crew, a number of vehicles, and a great deal of ammunition.
Although some accounts indicate there was an explosion not long after midnight, and it was originally thought the ship had been hit by a torpedo, the most accurate account is probably that of Broadhurst. He reported that around 5:20 a. m. the ship was blown into a minefield and struck a mine. Survivors remarked that they had noticed a sulfurous smell, which is consistent with a mine strike. By 5:25, Broadhurst had given the order to abandon ship (though this fact is sometimes disputed by those who indicated that the ship’s communication system had been knocked out).
A variety of naval vessels—many of them minesweepers—began rescue efforts, and in the chaos of the rescue, LCI 32—searching for survivors—also hit a mine. While a number of men were rescued, the horrid weather conditions—wind, cold, hail, and rain—probably accounted for many of the deaths; those not killed immediately by explosions, fire, or drowning would have become subject to hypothermia. Pvt. Edgar J. Farley would be one of the many unlucky men not rescued that night.
Lowry notes that, although the cost was high, the tragedy did lead the way to innovations that would impact future naval rescues. He points out that rescuers (and survivors) noted the inadequacy of the life belts and jackets on the LST and of the lifesaving devices. Also stressed was the importance of rapid rescue in rough and icy waters and the need for better training in first aid.
|Pvt. Edgar J. Farley’s name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno, Italy. For his service, Farley received the Purple Heart.|
Article contributed by Patricia Richards McClure, with assistance from Terry Lowry.
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