Centenarian Soldier; Last Known Surviving American World War I Veteran
(October 7, 2010)
Charles Town, WV (July 2010) -- Frank Buckles, who is
109 and the last surviving American World War One veteran, sits with the Spirit
of America flag. Photo by David DeJonge
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (MCN
9/30/2010) -- Though his words now come in a
hushed whisper, Frank Woodruff Buckles'
109-year-old eyes still gleam with wisdom and
Buckles, who served in the Army as a corporal,
is the last known surviving American veteran of
World War I – making him a living piece of
America entered World War I in 1917. Everyone
was reading and talking about the war, and
recruiting posters were set up everywhere to
encourage Americans to do their duty and defend
America, according to Buckles' daughter,
Susannah Buckles Flanagan.
Buckles enlisted in Oklahoma City after having
to lie to his recruiters about his age; he was
16 at the time. He was the 15,577th Army recruit
to join for the war, according to national
archive records in his family's possession.
“I was all gung-ho to get to France,” Buckles
said in an interview with ABC Nightly News. “A
regular Army sergeant said that, ‘if you want to
get into France in a hurry, you go into the
Buckles did just that, becoming a member of the
First Fort Riley Casual Detachment. The unit was
sent to England aboard the RMS Carpathia, the
same ship that had rescued the survivors of the
Titanic five years before.
“He was sent to England on the Carpathia and was
stationed in Winchester, England,” said
Flanagan. “Since not everyone in those days knew
how to drive and he did, he was assigned to
drive military officers to various meetings and
Though Buckles never saw combat action, he played his own
role in the war. Most people had not yet been trained to
drive, and his abilities were useful in France.|
“Once in France, he did whatever was needed; driving
ambulances and other vehicles and occasional guard duty,”
Flanagan said. “After the Armistice, he stayed in the Army
of Occupation and escorted German prisoners of war by train
back to Germany.”
He returned to the United States as a corporal in 1920 and
did not reenlist after the war. That did not mean it would
be the end of adventure in his life. Buckles then worked for
a shipping company on a cargo ship and had the misfortune of
being in Manila, Philippines, when the Japanese wrested
control of the Philippine Islands from the U.S. According to
his website, www.frankbuckles.org, he spent 39 months in a
Japanese prison camp. There he survived on small cups of
beans, rice and worm-filled mush until being rescued by the
11th Airborne Division.
Now, at the age of 109, this old soldier deserves a rest.
However, the fighting spirit has never left him. As the last
known surviving World War I veteran, he lobbies congress for
the building of a national World War I monument on the Mall
of Washington as no such monument has yet been built.
“Frank feels that it is his responsibility as the last man
standing to bring honor to the nearly 5 million that served
for our nation,” said David DeJonge, who serves as Buckles'
spokesperson and photographer. “Not only is Frank the last
American that served, but he is the very last person to have
served an active role on the Western Front.”
Washington currently has a World War I memorial dedicated to
the citizens of the capital, but no monument for the nation
itself. The citizens monument has fallen into disrepair but
is being restored at the urging of Buckles and his
“We would like to share the property and enhance the respect
for the District of Columbia memorial by incorporating some
simple elements to bring it to a national and D.C. World War
I memorial,” said DeJonge.
Buckles now resides on his family farm in Charles Town, W.
Va. His website is used to educate the public about World
War I and those brave Americans who served in the great war.
“I knew I would be one of the last ones,” Buckles said. “But
I never expected to be the last.”
Now Buckles is the only living-link America has to a time
By Pfc. Scott L. Tomaszycki|
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point
Marine Corps News
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