THE MUCH-ANTICIPATED DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT THE PRISON BLOOD PLASMA PROGRAM ATROCITY, "FACTOR 8: THE ARKANSAS PRISON BLOOD SCANDAL" IS NOW AVAILABLE! DETAILS BELOW...


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ROBERT BUFORD TANT, SR.


September 20, 1925 - April 4, 2008

WWII HERO

BY Linda Tant Miller

My Dad was Robert Buford Tant on September 20, 1925 in Tallassee, (Coosa County), Alabama. The name Buford is a family name from Dad's mother's side of the family. Dad was named for General Buford, later known as the Dirt Water Fox.

He was 4th born into a very poor family of 7 children, and his family struggled to survive the Great Depression.

As a child, he had to pick cotton for a penny a pound, in order to buy his school books. He went to school, often without breakfast or lunch, but he studied hard, made good grades and in high school, played football.

He wanted to be a doctor, but World War II broke out, so on September 23, 1942, three days after his 17th birthday, he dropped out of school and joined the United States Navy.


Dad in 1942 - age 17

He took basic training at the Naval Training Center, San Diego, CA. Following Basic Training he attended Radio School at Sand Point, in Seattle, Gunnery School at Purcell, OK, Operational Training at Jacksonville, FL.

On March 7, 1943 Dad and my mother, the former Myrtle Agnes Davis were married. They had known one another since the age of 12 and were married when Mama was 16 and Dad was 18. He wore his dress blue Sailor uniform, and she wore a navy blue suit with a white pillbox hat. Unfortunately, no of photos of their wedding remain.


Mama in 1943 - age 16

Three days after their wedding, Dad reported to CASU at Quonset Point, RI, where he served with VT-14, the assignment that led to his being stationed aboard the USS Carrier WASP, CV-18 and to the Pacific Ocean and the conflict with Japan.


USS WASP, CV-18
USS WASP Web Site

He was assigned as the Navigator on a TBM Bomber.


TBM Bomber

On July 4, 1944 while on a mission as TBM torpedo bomber, the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire from Iwo Jima.

After some trouble deploying the escape hatch, Dad finally bailed out of the aircraft, only to find himself tangled in his parachute cords. Fortunately, he had a sharp knife, and managed to free himself. Shortly thereafter, he located the Gunner, Warren Goodman who had been straffed by a Japanese Zero. Dad stayed in the water with him for two days, trying to reach a small island in the distance.

Following a shark attack that took the sleeve off Dad's shirt, and realizing he and Warren weren't making any progress toward reaching land, Dad was forced to leave Warren and strike out alone for the small island, which was farther away than they realized.

Following another day in the water, Dad pulled himself, exhausted and sick from sea water, over barnacle-encrusted rocks and onto the small rock island on which there was a small, uninhabited shack. Crawling from the sea, he collapsed into unconsciousness. When he eventually regained consciousness, he searched the small island for signs of food or fresh water.

He located a small container of stagnant fresh water which was swarming with mosquito larvae and drank that in desperation. He said it tasted better than any water he'd ever had. He eventually managed to stab one of the small fish which were swimming near the shore, and tried to eat it raw. Biting into it, he felt his mouth explode in agony, and he quickly spit out the poisonous fish.

Finding no source of food or water, he was forced to hang his undershirt on a bamboo pole he found in the shack, as a signal to those on the main island of Iwo Jima that he was there. Soon after, Dad saw a small fishing boat coming toward the island, and as they approached he walked down to the edge of the shore and was captured by the Japanese. He tried to get them to find Warren, but never saw nor heard of his friend again.

Thus, it was that on July 7, 1944 Dad became the first American serviceman on Iwo Jima, having been captured and taken there 7 months prior to the invasion.

He was incarcerated at Ofuna until January, 1945, then at Omori, on the north part of Honshu until May, 1945, and finally Wakasen (Sendai #10) until October, 1945, when the war was over.


Dad, at the end of the war
Weight 85 lbs., with tuberculosis, and heart problems caused from lack of vitamins

After his return to the United States, he stayed in the Navy, completing his high school diploma and college GED.

During his 29 year Navy career, Dad served an assignment in 1946 in Glencoe, GA, during which time their children were born. I was born Linda Carol Tant on October 1, 1946; Buddy, Robert B. Tant, Jr., was born on October 30, 1947; and then Susie, Shelia Suzanne Tant, came along on Dad's birthday, September 20, 1949. Mom always went back to Tallassee for the births of all their children, and Dad would take leave to be there just before we were born, then we'd all return to his assignment with him.

Dad used to have me stand in his right hand, from the time I was just a few months old. I had such complete faith in him that even after I was so big that Mama was scared for us to do our "trick" I was always thrilled to step right into his hand and have him lift me up. I always had complete faith that Dad would never let me fall.


Me, standing in Dad's hand
Tallassee, 1947

From February 1950 to May 1952, he served in VF-17 at Cecil Field, FL, with a cruise to the Mediterranean on the USS Coral Sea. While he was at sea, Mom, Buddy, Susie and I went to stay in Tallassee. While we were there, our house burned down, and we lost everything we owned, including the shirt the shark had removed the sleeve from, a letter to Mama from Eleanor Roosevelt upon Dad's capture, and most of the existing photos of our family to that date.

From May 1952 to May 1954, Dad was assigned to VP-44 in Norfolk, VA. That's where I started school.

May 1954 to March 1957 we were in Memphis, TN - actually, Millington - while Dad was on the staff of the Chief of Naval Air Technical Training. Dad had been acting Chief since his release from the POW camp, and had to take special training and pass a test to keep his rank, which he did during this assignment.

From April 1957 to October 1962, Dad was Leading Chief of VP-50, at what used to be the Seaplane Base in Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, WA. Despite his desperate efforts to avoid it, including visits to the Pentagon, Dad was deployed to Iwakuni, Japan several times. After he went the first time, he loved Japan, and we looked forward to deploying with him to Japan in 1960. We got all of the shots, passport photo and ready to follow Dad to Japan once he got us a house there. In the meantime, we went back to Tallassee. As it turned out, we didn't get to go to Japan, and we waited in Tallassee until Dad came and got us.


Our Passport photo from 1959

When he got back from Japan we moved in October 1962 to Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu, CA, where Dad was stationed until July 1965. During that time, I graduated from high school, married and gave birth to my first child, who was 8 weeks old when Dad, Mama, Buddy and Susie transferred back to Whidbey Island.

From July 1965 to September 1968, Dad was stationed with VP-42 at NAS Whidbey Island, during which time deployment was to Sangley Point, in the Philippines, with duties along the coast of Vietnam. It was during that time that Mom and Dad got divorced, then re-married and re-divorced, both Bud and Sue graduated from high school, and my first child, Terese, died.

From October 1968 to October 1970 he came back to Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu, CA, where my husband, my son, Bud and I were living.


Dad, at Point Mugu, in 1963
This is how I best remember Dad from my childhood, in his khakis, hard hat and flight jacket

During his second assignment to Point Mugu, he was nominated for Command Master Chief of the Navy, which is the attache to the Secretary of the Navy - a very prestigious honor. By that time however, he had met my soon-to-be-stemother, June, who's Japanese. She wasn't very confident about her command of the English language, so felt she would not be comfortable in the fishbowl social whirl of Washington, DC, so Dad withdrew his nomination, and retired in September, 1970.


My stepmother, June Hisako Tant

Dad retired after 29 years with gold uniforn braid, in recognition of his perfect service record. Hid Decorations include two Purple Hearts; 3 Awards of the Air Medal; WWII Victory Medal; Vietnam Campaign Medal; Congressional POW Medal, and others.


Dad receiving the Congressional POW Medal

After retirement from the Navy, he sold real estate briefly, in Houston, TX. He loved Houston, as most of his family had migrated there by that time, but he longed to return to Whidbey Island, where his heart has belonged since his first assignment there. So, he went to work for the U.S. Postal Service, and in 1973 he transferred to the Post Office in Oak Harbor. He retired from the Post Office after 12 years of service.

He than began his career as an Oak Harbor City Council Member. During his term in office he was instrumental in keeping NAS Whidbey from being closed by the Base Realignment and Closure Committee, which was closing U.S. military installations all over the world. VERY few installations that made the BRAC list avoided closure.

Dad dug in for the fight. He invited members of the BRAC to come to Whidbey and see what it was all about. He took some of them out on his boat, fishing for King Salmon and trapping the Dungeness Crabs that inhabit the Northwestern Pacific Ocean. He proved to them that NAS Whidbey had the most and clearest training air space in the country, and that NAS Whidbey deserved to live, as it does to this very day, with no threat of future closure. The city of Oak Harbor, indeed, the whole of Whidbey Island continues to prosper and grow, in part due to Dad's determined efforts to prevent NAS Whidbey from being closed.


Dad on the Oak Harbor City Council
He's sitting, front row, far left

After 8 years on the City Council Dad retired to fishing, hunting, crabbing, gardening, golf and traveling.

He founded the Fourth Corner Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War, and was the first Commander of the Island Chapter.


Dad, Commander of Ex-POW Island Chapter

Dad was a staunch Republican, and lived in San Diego briefly in 2000, when George W. Bush was running his first Presidental campaign. POWs were invited to join him on the podium at an appearance.


Dad, second from left, not paying attention

My Dad was an exceptional man, and I have always been so proud that I was his daughter.


Dad, 2002

In 1999 he had a quadruple bypass operation at the VA Hospital in Seattle. He never really recovered from that surgery. His health steadily declined, as his heart function slowed.

He was admitted to Madigan Army Hospital for congestive heart failure, during 2001. At that time they determined that there was nothing they could do to help him, as too many axillary blood vessels had formed since his surgery. They said his arteries were so blocked that they'd probably been blocked again before he left the VA Hospital after the bypass surgery. So, he reconcilled himself to a slow, lingering death that he fought every step of the way.

Dad was a walking machine. He could travel farther and faster than anyone I knew, because he walked daily in the sand of City Beach. He tried to walk at least 5 miles a day, but took a couple of hard falls walking in wet weather, so he bought a plethora of exercise machines he utilized religiously.

One day in 2005, Dad was going with a friend to look at a vehicle he planned to buy. When he tried to straighten his right knee, his knee cap suddenly broke into two pieces. He had surgery, where it was discovered that gout crystals had built up under his knee cap, and they had simply worn the bone so thin and fragile that simply straightening his leg had caused it to break.

Following surgery, Dad was sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation. He hated it in the nursing home, where he felt they were callous to his pain and other needs, and he worked hard to get well enough to go home.

On the day he was released from the nursing home, Dad was sent straight to his doctor's office, where the cast from his leg was removed, without prior x-raying. About an hour after he got home, while trying to walk to the bathroom, Dad's knee shattered into many pieces. The fracture never healed, and was the cause of his having to have his living room made into a hospital room.

Dad suffered untold agony with that knee over the last three years of his life, but he seldom complained. He worked hard with and without the physical therapists who went to his house three times a week, and was determined to walk the entire length of the Great Wall of China when he was 100. Although he actually got well enough to walk in his garden up to two weeks before he died, he got pneumonia, and never made it past age 82. Dad died at 8:30 p.m. on April 4, 2008, in the comfort of his own home, with June and I at his side.

Losing Bud was an unbelievable event, and our family's grief was overwhelming. Losing Sue to a sudden and unexpected asthma attack that caused massive heart failure was a shock and agony I'll never recover from. I feel like I lost a piece of myself when I lost Sue. But, losing Dad is like the sun exploding in the sky. Dad was supposed to be immortal. I feel empty and adrift in the universe.


Me and Dad, on Sue's deck, right after her funeral

Dad's funeral was held at Burley Funeral Home in Oak Harbor, WA on April 10, 2008, but he won't be buried until June 26, 2008 at 3:00 p.m. at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. He will be taken to his gravesite on a horse-drawn caisson, with June, my son and his wife, my daughter and her family, June's daughter Mari, and I following behind, on foot. He will have a bugle corps and a rifle team for salutes, and if they still permit them following 9/11, he will receive a flyover of Navy jets in honor of his life of service. Dad deserves no less.

All that's left of our family is Mom and me, and she lives in Alabama and I in Washington state. Together, we're trying to put together the whole story of our lives with Dad, in a book I plan to write.

I can't say good-bye to my Dad, no matter how many funerals and burials he has. Dad was the biggest person in my life. I often thought that the most important thing I've ever been was his daughter. He will live forever in me. I am his living legacy. As he once shook his head and said to me, "We're just too much alike." For better and for worse, I am proud to be like my Dad, the greatest man I've ever known.


I love you, Dad

FACTOR 8: THE ARKANSAS PRISON BLOOD SCANDAL

Kelly Duda and Concrete Films have produced a documentary which details the corruption and greed that led the Arkansas Department of Correction to spread death from Arkansas prisons to the entire world. Hear the story from the mouths of those responsible for the harvesting of infected human blood plasma, and its sale to be made into medicines.

Duda's award-winning film unflinchingly documents the whole story the U.S. government and the state of Arkansas have tried to keep hidden from the world.

Click the photo of Kelly Duda at work to order your own copy of
"Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal"

Click the photo of Kelly Duda at work to visit the
Factor 8 Documentary website

Please help spread the word about this important film,
along with the urls to the linked pages.

ARKANSANS WORKING TO ACHIEVE REVOLUTION

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