Robert Cecil Bondurant
1918 – 2009
Relationship to Fawn: grand uncle
This is one of two stories I wrote on Veteran’s Day, the 11th of November, thinking it would be appropriate to add a couple of stories on Veteran’s Day about the military service of family members. However, I had a problem with the hard drive they were stored on and am only now posting them. There are, of course, other family members who performed military service, but this is one such family story.
My father was in the military and we moved around when I was a child, so I did not grow up around my extended family. My Uncle Robert is one of my mother’s siblings I came to know the best. After my father’s death we stayed at Uncle Robert and Aunt Vivian’s house in Reidsville, North Carolina for a bit one summer, and he and Aunt Vivian were always warm and welcoming to us.
The U. S. War Department, Press Releases and Related Records, 1942 – 1945 list Robert C. Bondurant, as a Tech. Sgt. in the Infantry. As his obituary indicated, he retired from the Army in 1961 as a Command Sgt. Major. The story I briefly relate here occurred in the interim.
Uncle Robert was part of the 30th Infantry Division, 120th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion. He served in the European theatre in World War II and was captured, spending 18 months as a prisoner of war. His obituary states that he was held in Prisoner of War (POW) camps in Germany and Russia.
He was liberated towards the end of the war by a Russian detachment as the Red Army advanced toward Berlin. The story I have always heard was that he was among prisoners moved from POW prisons on the eastern front to POW prisons closer to Berlin as the Russians successfully pressed German lines west. The increased concentration of POWs were like a buffer.
When his camp was liberated the Russian forces were not equipped to help the prisoners nor did they have the time to halt their advance. However, the female leader of the tank unit used the tanks to tear down the fences allowing the prisoners to escape.
I recall a remark of Uncle Robert’s that my mother told me about that the prisoners had heard about women serving on the front lines in the Red Army and even all-women detachments, but he didn’t think even the Germans had seen them up close.
That liberation began a journey on foot to find his way back to American lines.
For his service he was awarded the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster. The document, “U.S. Army Awards of the Bronze Star Medal for Conspicuous Gallantry in Action During World War II – 30th Infantry Division” list TSgt Robert C. Bondurant as being awarded the CIB (Combat Infantry Badge), BS (Bronze Star), and Bs/OLC (Bronze Star/Oak Leaf Cluster). I assume the last was noting the addition of the Oak Leaf Cluster to the previous Bronze Star as an enhancement of that decoration indicating a second award of the same medal.
This is simply the information I gathered from a few documents and the story as I was told it. I have always assumed there are more details, such as the circumstances under which he was captured, the events that occurred as he made his way back to American lines, and the circumstances cited in the Bronze Star Award, but I do not currently have any of that. Perhaps another family member will be able to add them on.
Additional information on the early life of Uncle Robert and his siblings can be found in the story, The Bondurants – Keeping a Family Together.