Blanton was born in Fort Myers and grew up in Lady Lake. At age 18, during the Great Depression, he found himself without job experience and joined the Navy. His early letters home talked about his good fortune in being assigned to the USS Arizona, which was docked in California.
Blanton, then a Shipfitter Third Class, told his family that his ship was sailing to Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941, Japan ordered an attack on the Navy base and ships. Eight armor-piercing bombs struck the USS Arizona. More than 1,100 sailors and Marines were lost, along with the ship.
Blanton’s sister, then 16 years old, was at the Lady Lake Methodist Church completing plans for the annual Christmas program. She was interrupted by the devastating news of the attack. Ten days later, Blanton’s mother received a telegram from the War Department. It read: “Your son Atticus Lee Blanton is missing in action.” A month later, a second telegram arrived, which read the same as the first but continued with “and presumed dead.”