Tant, Robert, MCPO

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Last Rank
Master Chief Petty Officer
Last Primary NEC
8202-Naval Aircrewman (Special Assignment)
Last Rating/NEC Group
Rating/NEC Group Unknown
Primary Unit
1968-1970, Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC)
Service Years
1942 - 1971
Seven Hash Marks

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Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Tant, Robert, MCPO.
Contact Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address
Oak Harbor, WA

Date of Passing
Apr 04, 2008
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Command

 Unofficial Badges 

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Not Specified
Other Comments:

26JUN08 - I had the incredible honor of being the Escort Commander for the official funeral of Master Chief Tant today at Arlington Cemetary.  I was also honored to present the flag to his wife June.  I didn't know him before today, but I will spend the rest of my life in awe of his achievements.  Please read the following article to learn more about this extraordinary man:

CTMCM(SS/SW) Marcantel
US Navy Ceremonial Guard

First on Iwo Jima
Schultz, Melvin Ray

The first American to set foot on Iwo Jima in WWII was neither a Marine nor a Sea Bee. He was Robert Buford Tant a radioman and combat aircrewman flying TBMs in VT-14 aboard USS Wasp (CV-18). He had enlisted at the age of 17.

On July 4th, 1944, while flying wing on the squadron CO for a predawn strike on Iwo Jima, his aircraft took a AAA hit two feet from Tant's battle station. Barely able to jettison the hatch because the Avenger was in a steep dive, he managed to get out at 2,500 feet, seconds before the plane crashed into the sea.

Descending in the chute he was shot at by Japanese troops on the ground. Once in the water he struggled to cut his shroud lines with his survival knife as a Zero approached. Tant, deflated his Mae West and submerged as the Zero expended all its ordnance in a failed effort to kill Tant. He was near the Iwo Jima shore line but swam out to sea, hoping for rescue from Navy ships or planes.

The TBM's wounded gunner and Tant's best friend, Warren Atlee Goodwin, had also bailed out. He set out with Tant to swim to the sea lane where U.S. support vessels were scheduled for shore bombardment later that day. Both men became exhausted just keeping afloat in their life vests which remained only partially inflated. They were attacked by dive bombers but a pair of F6Fs splashed this bandit. The Navy fighter pilot did not see the survivors.

In the morning, the men activated fluorescent dye, creating a 100-foot circle of color, but this also failed to attract searchers flying overhead so close the swimmers could see the pilots' helmet clasps. Well away in the distance they sighted their pilot, ENS Drake, but he had not spotted them. Drake was floating in a one-man raft. An OS2U spotted Drake and picked him up. The two aircrewmen had still not been sighted.

Their condition worsened in the next two days. They jettisoned flashlights, orange tarps, mirrors and Very pistols, retaining their .38 revolvers which, unfortunately, wouldn't fire due to the wet tracer rounds. Then came a shark which circled them before charging. Both men thrashed and yelled even though this was not a recommended procedure. The shark tore Tant's right shirtsleeve but he was otherwise unharmed.

The shark departed and the men decided to swim to shore, now about three miles away. Rip tides worked against them and shocked from exposure and fatigue, they floated in and out of consciousness, bobbing in the sea only to be awakened by slapping waves. Their shirtsleeves rubbed against developing sores on their biceps and their faces were cooked by the sun and abraded by salt water. Tant's mouth had become one massive canker sore.

By evening of the second day they were a mile from the shore. Goodwin was in desperate need of medical care so Tant decided to swim alone and gain assistance from someone to aid Goodwin. He reached a large rock as the sun was setting and clawed his way up it, his bare feet and hands badly lacerated by the barnacle-covered coral. Totally spent, he passed out.

At daybreak, Tant found several deserted houses and drank from pools of stagnant, larvae-filled rainwater to survive. He lashed his skivvy shirt to a bamboo pole and hoisted it. Two eternal days later he was spotted - but by a Japanese plane which dispatched a landing craft manned by 50 infrantrymen to the site. Tant was captured and beaten and became a POW for 14 horrible months but survived and is alive today.

Tragically, no trace of Goodwin was ever found.

(CAPT Schultz is a former Combat Aircrewman -ARM2C, Emeritus -, as he likes to say, and is a principal figure in the creation of the Enlisted Combat Aircrew Roll of Honor aboard USS Yorktown, Patriots Point Maritime Museum, South Carolina.)

Copyright Association of Naval Aviation Summer 1999
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved



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  1944-1945, Prisoner of War

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Held in captivity by enemy combatants

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Last Updated: Jun 28, 2008
Memories For This Unit

Other Memories
After being shot down on July 4th, 1944 near Iwo Jima, he swam for three days trying to evade the enemy. Eventually on July 7, 1944 he 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.

My Photos For This Duty Station
October 1945 - Ex-POW - 85 lbs
58 Members Also There at Same Time
Prisoner of War

Bishop, Lewis, CDR, (1937-1948) [Other Service Rank]
Mott, Charles, CAPT, (1937-1963) [Other Service Rank]
Maher, Arthur, RDML, (1923-1953) Captain
Hede, Adolph, CDR, (1925-1944) Commander
Thyson, Leo, CAPT Commander
Goodall, Henry, LCDR Lieutenant Commander
Gaul, James, LT, (1942-1945) Lieutenant
Green, James, LT, (1942-1945) Lieutenant
MacMahon, John Churchill, PO1, (1941-1944) Petty Officer First Class
Paris, Nelson, PO1, (1941-1945) Petty Officer First Class
Bridget, Francis Joseph, CAPT, (1917-1944) OFF 131X Captain
HOEFFEL, Kenneth, RADM, (1917-1947) OFF 111X Captain
Connell, James Aloysius, LCDR, (1927-1945) OFF 220X Lieutenant Commander
Palmer, John Higbie, LTJG, (1942-1945) OFF 131X Lieutenant Junior Grade
Elliot, John William, ENS, (1940-1944) OFF 310X Ensign
LAUFF, Bernard, CAPT, (1937-1968) OFF 111X Ensign
Burns, William L., CPO, (1925-1944) BM BM-0000 Chief Petty Officer
Guith, Frederick Gorman, CPO, (1928-1948) PrT PrT-0000 Chief Petty Officer
Harrell, Roland Eugene, CPO, (1927-1944) EM EM-0000 Chief Petty Officer
Thompson, Harold, CPO, (1926-1950) EM EM-0000 Chief Petty Officer
Autrey, Benjamin Franklin, CPO, (1924-1944) TM TM-0000 Chief Petty Officer
Grizzard, Herbert Wayne, PO1, (1935-1944) MM MM-0000 Petty Officer First Class
Leaming, Jack, PO1, (1941-1945) ARM ARM-0000 Petty Officer First Class
Chenoweth, Joseph Gordon, PO2, (1939-1944) TM TM-0000 Torpedoman 2nd Class
Clack, Roy Lee, PO3, (1940-1944) EM EM-0000 Petty Officer Third Class
Minton, Joseph, LT, (1941-1964) QM QM-0000 Petty Officer Third Class
Adams, Harry Edward, S1c, (1940-1944) S1c S1c-0000 Seaman 1st Class
Poulin, Lawrence, PO3, (1937-1945) WT WT-0000 Fireman 1st Class

Prior, Frances, S1c, (1944-1948) 00 00-0000 Seaman 1st Class

Suggett, Robert, S1c, (1940-1945) GM GMG-0000 Seaman 1st Class
Lord, Joe, S2c, (1936-1944) 00 00-0000 Seaman Second Class

Cunningham, Winfield Scott, RADM, (1919-1950) OFF Captain
Bryan, Arthur Melven, LCDR, (1917-1945) OFF 310X Lieutenant Commander
Dial, Nathaniel Minter, LT, (1932-1945) OFF Lieutenant
Gothie, Daniel Shinton, LT, (1932-1944) OFF Lieutenant
Rhodes, Raleigh Ernest, CDR, (1940-1961) OFF 000X Lieutenant
Murchison, William Jervis, LTJG, (1940-1945) OFF Lieutenant Junior Grade
Hindenlang, Warren Arthur, ENS, (1942-1944) OFF 131X Ensign
Regan, Richard Arthur, Mach., (1925-1944) WO WO Machinist (WO)
Otto, Leon, LCDR, (1925-1953) CWO CWO Gunner (WO)
Adams, Charles Speed, CPO, (1922-1945) RM RM-0000 Chief Petty Officer
Edwards, Houston Ernest, CPO, (1917-1944) EM EM-0000 Chief Petty Officer
Maass, Adolph Rudolph, CPO, (1921-1944) PhM PhM-0000 Chief Petty Officer
Sullivan, Leon Joseph, CPO, (1929-1944) GM GM-0000 Chief Gunner's Mate
Bailey, Vincent Leonard, PO1, (1934-1944) SK SK-0000 Petty Officer First Class
Black, Robert Armstrong, PO1, (1936-1944) QM QM-0000 Petty Officer First Class
DENNIG, Richard Alphonse, LCDR, (1938-1968) SK SK-0000 Petty Officer First Class
DENNIG, Richard Alphonse, LCDR, (1938-1968) SK SK-0000 Petty Officer First Class
Hamilton, William Samuel, PO1, (1941-1944) ARM ARM-0000 Petty Officer First Class
Lucky, Loyd, CPO, (1940-1960) FT FT-1138 Petty Officer First Class
Morgan, Jack Payne, PO1, (1931-1945) PhM PhM-0000 Petty Officer First Class
Wilson, Robert Archibald, PO1, (1936-1945) FC FC-0000 Fire Controlman 1st Class
Ambro, Eugene Allan, PO2, (1937-1944) PhM PhM-0000 Petty Officer Second Class
Compton, Luther Carl, PO2, (1936-1944) PhM PhM-0000 Petty Officer Second Class
Hartz, William Albert, PO3, (1939-1944) PhM PhM-0000 Petty Officer Third Class
Janney, General Arnold, PO3, (1939-1944) PhM PhM-0000 Petty Officer Third Class
Sura, Michael, PO3, (1940-1945) QM QM-0000 Petty Officer Third Class
Graham, George, Cox, (1937-1944) COX COX-0000 Coxswain
Lechler, William Richard, S1c, (1934-1944) S1c S1c-0000 Seaman 1st Class

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