FARMINGTON — On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, destroying much of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, killing more than 2,400 Americans and wounding another 1,280.

The next edition of the Farmington Times Hustler on Dec. 12, 1941, announced the result: "WAR."

So it was that residents of Farmington, an agricultural community with a small but growing oil and gas industry, were swept into World War II.

Sheriff Andy Andrews swore in and armed 75 deputies "as a defense measure for the county." They guarded the city reservoir, oil refineries and public utility plants, apparently on the chance that the Japanese would attack the mainland.

A resident who served in the Navy Reserve, Willard Leighton, was called into service.

San Juan County residents who were at Pearl Harbor during the attack included Earl J. Bangert of Bloomfield, Leon B. Plemons of Kirtland and Wayne R. Bole, Edward A. Bolton and George W. Ross of Farmington.

Ross was aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma when the battleship was hit. Machine gun bullets fired by Japanese warplanes riddled the ship's oily wooden deck, splintering the surface. Ross was able to jump off the ship before it capsized and sank, according to a Daily Times account on the attack's anniversary in 1999.

He watched from the water as the U.S.S. Arizona exploded.

After the war, Ross returned to San Juan County, where he began a career with El Paso Natural Gas. He died in 1999.

Only about 1.


5 million of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive, according to the National World War II Museum.

"We're all in our upper 80s, lower 90s," said James B. Clark, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2182 in Farmington. "Like old Hank Williams says, you're not going to get off this world alive."