Leoma Benjiman Blackmon joined the Marine Corps because he wanted to serve the country. The Marine Corps supported him taking correspondence courses in bookkeeping, so he enlisted in September 1939.
After basic training, Blackmon went to the Recruit Depot Detachment at the Marine Corps base in San Diego, California to undergo marksmanship training. In December, he went on the carrier USS Henderson from San Francisco to the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Blackmon served with the 2nd Company and two weeks after his arrival, he went to the ammunition depot on the base to work as a guard and in kitchen patrol. Later, he joined the Horse Marines, a cavalry-based guard that watched over ammunition on base.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Blackmon finished guard duty that morning when he saw a group of planes flying toward the harbor. He originally thought they were American planes due to the harbor’s proximity to airfields. Blackmon realized they were Japanese after the alarm sounded to man battle stations. He witnessed the second wave of dive bombers and torpedo planes during the attack. Blackmon’s group shot down a few planes and took some Japanese pilots as prisoners. They also kept watch the night after the attack. Blackmon described the atmosphere as tense, especially when false rumors reached the base of a Japanese landing force approaching the harbor Dec. 8.
After the attack, Blackmon’s platoon brought two prisoners of war to San Francisco on the USS Henderson.
He then went to the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, to train Marine recruits, including movie star Tyrone Powers. He also worked as a post exchange steward, handling Marine merchandise like cigarettes, paper and envelopes. From 1943 to 1944, Blackmon frequently received deployment orders, but stayed behind at the station due to his accounting skills and the interference of his commanding officer.
In 1945, he received orders to ship out, but his mother’s ill health prevented his deployment. After his mother’s death from cancer, he prepared to ship out a fourth time in August 1945 when the war ended. Before his discharge, he worked typing discharge papers for soldiers before his own discharge as a staff sergeant from the Marine Corps in October 1945.
After leaving the Marine Corps, Blackmon returned to Corpus Christi to his wife and managed a variety store while getting his hair cut. After a year, he worked as a bookkeeper and salesman for an independent company. He later trained to become a teacher and after getting his certification from Texas Tech in Lubbock, he became a schoolteacher in Corpus Christi. Blackmon continued to keep in touch with a fellow Marine, who he was reunited with through the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
We honor his service.
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Writer: Sarah Concepcion