RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — While the greatest generation’s population is ever-shrinking, a few of these World War II heroes still live in Central Virginia.
Robert “Bob” Buntin was just 17-years-old when Japan attacked American forces on December 7, 1941. He jokes that he can’t remember what he did yesterday, but that day 76 years ago is unforgettable.
“Everybody remembers where they were that day,” Buntin said.
Buntin’s father died when he was just nine years old, thus exempting him from the draft since he was considered the ‘man of the house.’
Instead, he volunteered for service, enlisting in the Army and landing in Marseille, France in the fall of 1944.
His mom allowed him to go overseas, and each month Buntin sent a majority of his pay back to his hometown of Blackstone, Virginia.
While pushing north against the Germans in France, Buntin was separated from his company and was captured behind enemy lines.
He spent several months as a prisoner of war — his 165-pound frame withered to just 95 pounds.
“It was so cold,” Buntin recalled. “It’s impossible to describe how cold it was.”
As he now grapples with mortality, he thinks back to being 17 — just a senior in high school — on a day that lives in infamy.
“When you’re that young, you think you’re immortal,” Buntin explained.
Buntin eventually wrote a book, rightfully titled, ‘A Long Way Home.’
The 93-year-old hasn’t seen a battlefield in decades but says remembering this history is imperative.
“I think the more stories that can be told, to remind us of what war is like and all is good,” he said. “I think it’s a positive thing to remind us how horrible war is.”
More than 2,400 men and women died in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, marking the United States’ entry into World War II.
Buntin returned home from the war, eventually marrying his wife and settling back into life in Blackstone.
They’ve been married for nearly seven decades and now live in Westminster Canterbury, a retirement community in Richmond.