Purple Heart Profile: Clarence Theodore (CT) Farris

Patriot Clarence Theodore (CT) Farris was born in Russellville, Illinois in 1933 in the midst of our country’s worst depression. Patriot Farris’ family moved to Phoenix, Arizona where he attended high school, worked various jobs and in 1952 enlisted in the USAF. Patriot Farris completed his basic training in the ammunition field and volunteered for the war in Korea. Although, Patriot Farris didn’t see combat action in Korea, he decided to stay in the AF and possibly make it a career.

It was at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia that Patriot Farris met his lovely wife Janice Fay Fowler. After only 30 days, they were married on 22 December 1956, over 50 years ago. Their children are Joey, Steve and Liz.

Patriot Farris spent the next 10 years taking a number of difficult assignments and becoming a very skilled ammunition demolition specialist. This fact was tested shortly after he volunteered and arrived in the combat zone of Nha Trang, South Vietnam, where he and another NCO had to deactivate a 250 lb bomb from a Vietnamese air craft while two battle damage F-4s were waiting to make emergency landings. The General Officer observing this very tensed situation, awarded these two brave airmen the Bronze Star with “V” device for the professional manner they handle this dangerous task. Patriot Farris left Vietnam for an assignment to Luke AFB with the primary duty to clear dud bombs from the Gila Bend, AZ bombing range.

Although, Patriot Farris worked 12-14 hour days, he was so bored that he again volunteered to go to Vietnam and qualified as a helicopter gunship door gunner. He also served as a gunner/loader on the Air Force’s modified C 47 gun ship (also nicknamed “Puff, the Magic Dragon”). This modified fixed-wing aircraft had three .30 in (7.62 mm) mini-guns mounted to fire out the rear and two of the side windows. The plane carried 24,000 rounds of mini-gun ammunition and many 2 million candle power flares, which Patriot Farris would kick out of the plane while he was loading the mini-guns and changing burned out gun barrels. This was the kind of action that got Patriot Farris’s adrenaline flowing and was the kind of fire power support that the Infantry loved.

Prior to going to Vietnam, Patriot Farris confronted and fought a cowboy outside of William AFB in Ajo, AZ who threatened to shoot President L. B. Johnson just like President Kennedy had been shot. This resulted in a Secret Service investigation and a Federal trial of this individual. Patriot Farris flew back from Vietnam with VIP treatment. The cowboy was convicted and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor. Although, Patriot Ferris returned to Vietnam, he was quickly reassigned to Itazuke AB, Japan, where he was promoted to TSGT and placed in charge of a 15 man mobile EOD Unit.

Shortly after Patriot Farris received his spot promotion to E-6, he received TDY orders back to Vietnam. This time, he was a part a four service team sent to clean up a Marine/Air Force dump which was blown up in 1969. This was the kind of duty Patriot Farris enjoyed after returning to his base in Japan. He volunteered for combat support duty in Udorn, Thailand. Working from the American Embassy, his Mobile EOD team was deployed into both Vietnam and Laos normally to help extract downed air craft. During one extraction operation, Patriot Ferris suspected and confirmed that one of the bodies at the wreckage site had been booby trapped. Those operations were always very messy as well as very stressful.

Patriot Farris had been on many EOD operations before he was first wounded on 28 July 1970. His EOD team was deployed in the high lands of Pakse, Laos in support of a forward deployed radar site. While their helicopter was hovering about 100 feet above the radar site, Patriot Farris heard the familiar sound of an AK 47 and in an instant; he was hit on the left side of his head; above the right knee and near his left elbow. The pilot was hit with two rounds in his chest, so he had to land the helicopter. Patriot Farris was now on the other side of a combat rescue extraction. He was with three other EOD airmen and his team captain. Everyone was hit except the captain who was the most out of control. The pilot was able to land the helicopter in Pakse village where there was an American missionary who was a nurse. The nurse was able to provide us emergency medical treatment while they waited on the extraction team based on “may day” calls made by the pilot. Patriot Farris used his backpack radio to call for help and learned that the extraction team was 5-6 minutes out from their location as well as many North Vietnamese fighters. The extraction helicopter came in a “touch & go” mode where everyone had to be loaded while the engine was still running. The captain of the team had gone to make a phone call and hadn’t returned when the rescue pilot determined they had to leave this soon to be under seized location. The captain survived and later pressed charges against Patriot Farris for leaving him on the battlefield and consuming alcoholic beverages while on a combat operation. These charges were later dropped after the captain learned that he was subject to charges including “Unprofessional conduct of a military officer.”

Patriot Farris recuperated from his wounds and returned to duty in Vientiane, Laos where they continued to destroy old ammunition dumps. At one of the dumps, they continued to take sniper and mortar fire. Although, Patriot Farris had his flack vest on, a large piece of mortar shrapnel hit his vest and knocked him off his feet. They were able to take cover and call for artillery for support which allowed them to break contact. This action occurred on 24 October 1970 and caused Patriot Farris to spend 11 days in a hospital complaining about terrible back pains that were later diagnosed as being caused by combat related injuries to his kidney

Patriot Farris received his third Purple Heart in Vietnam on 7 November 1970 while on a C-47 gun ship mission. Their aircraft took a number of heavy machine gun rounds and Patriot Farris sustain two broken ribs when hit in his chest with his flack vest on. This was his last C-47 gun ship mission in that he was scheduled for reassignment, which ended up being at sunny Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina.

Patriot Farris had a number of interesting human stories during his short 20 year Air Force career. One occurred when he went on a Special Forces ambush patrol. His job was to set the explosives along the ambush sight. He set the 20 lb C 4 charges with empty liquor bottles and remotely set off the charges which wiped out a 9 man NVA supply unit. On another occasion, the same ambush patrol crossed what they thought was a large log on their trail but turned out to be a 30 foot Anaconda that was resting after swallowing a large wild hog. The local villagers invited them to eat roasted Anaconda.

Patriot Farris retired on 30 November 1972 with over 22 Military decorations including two Bronze Star Medals with “V” device; three Purple Heart Medals; Air Medals for 42 combat missions; two Commendation medals; the Korean and Vietnam Service Medals. We thank him for his military service, his induction into The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor (www.thepurpleheart.com) and his contributions to mankind.

Patriot Farris started his civilian work career as a cop in Georgetown, SC where he was recognized for arresting an average of 50 individuals a month in a town of 200,000. After only 8 months, he was recruited by one of his former commanders to come to Tallahassee. Patriot Farris headed the Police Department bomb squad for over 8 years where he made sergeant in 7 months.

Patriot Farris ended his law enforcement career when he took a job on an oil rig off the shores of Louisiana. When his right leg was hurt in a pipe accident, he was not able to continue that line of work. While working odd and end jobs, Patriot Farris had a stroke which took him out the competition for a US Marshall position under Governor Bob Graham. Patriot Farris took over a lawn service business from his son and when he sold it at age 65, he had over 115 accounts.

Over the years, Patriot Farris has become life members of the VFW, the American Legion, the DAV, the VVA, MOC (Military Order of the Cootie) and in 1991, he joined the MOPH. After meeting the Florida MOPH commander, he expressed interest in forming a MOPH chapter in Tallahassee. As the Commander of the local VFW, he worked with the State and National MOPH Commanders to get a packet to start our MOPH Chapter 758. He worked for quite a while with Patriot Bruce McIver (The First Chapter Commander) and others to finally get our MOPH Chapter chartered with 42 members on 25 June 2004. Since 2004, Patriot Farris has serviced as the Chapter Chaplin, Junior Vice-Commander and Senior Vice-Commander.

We are very proud of the military and patriotic service of Patriot Farris. We wish him the best of health and a long life.