S2c James Webster Leight

Unknown Sailor

S2c James Webster Leight

The day after Christmas 1941, William J. Leight Sr. watched as his son William Jr. enlisted at the Navy recruiting station in Huntington Park, California south of downtown Los Angeles.

The 21-year-old had been building warplanes at Lockheed but quit when the family was notified that another son, James Webster Leight, a seaman second class on the U.S.S. Arizona, was missing in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“That kid brother of mine — well, we were pretty close to each other. I’ll be in there pitching for him,” William Jr. said.

On that December day, the family still hoped that James might have survived the Dec. 7 attack. It was not to be, and he remains aboard the sunken battleship.

The Leights eventually sent two more children off to the Navy in World War II — Patricia and Ebenezer. All but James survived.

He was born June 18, 1923 in Butler County, Ohio north of Cincinnati. His father sold tires and his mother, Pearl Kuth Leight, was a homemaker. The family moved to California between 1930 and April 1935. James attended James A. Garfield High in East Los Angeles but did not stay long enough to graduate. He enlisted on April 22, 1941.

Another Garfield High student also died on the Arizona – Burdette Charles Campbell, who quit school in January 1941. He was a seaman first class when he was killed.


Sources: the San Diego (California) Union;  the Los Angeles Times;  the San Pedro (California) News Pilot; Pennsylvania veterans burial card; grave marker; Defense Department. Ohio birth record; Census; Navy muster roll; Garfield High school yearbook. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

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