Sunday, February 27, 2011

Remembering the last living American veteran of World War I.

Buckles (wearing the World War I Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal) with United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Here is at the age of 106

Frank Woodruff Buckles: Sir, you will be remembered as one of the last three surviving World War I veterans in the world, and was the last living American veteran of World War I, also the oldest verified World War I veteran in the world, and the second-oldest male military veteran in the world, thanks for your service, may you rest in peace!

Age 16 serving in World War I

Frank Woodruff Buckles (February 1, 1901 – February 27, 2011) was one of the last three surviving World War I veterans in the world, and was the last living American veteran of World War I. At the time of his death, Buckles was also the oldest verified World War I veteran in the world, and the second-oldest male military veteran in the world.

He lived at Gap View Farm, in Charles Town, West Virginia, and was the Honorary Chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation. During World War II, Buckles was taken prisoner by the Japanese as a civilian.


Buckles was born in Bethany, Missouri. He enlisted in the United States Army at the beginning of America's involvement in World War I in April 1917. Only 16 years old at the time, Buckles was asked by his recruiter to show a birth certificate. Later Buckles said of that event:

“ I was just 16 and didn’t look a day older. I confess to you that I lied to more than one recruiter. I gave them my solemn word that I was 18, but I’d left my birth certificate back home in the family Bible. They’d take one look at me and laugh and tell me to go home before my mother noticed I was gone. Somehow I got the idea that telling an even bigger whopper was the way to go. So I told the next recruiter that I was 21 and darned if he didn’t sign me up on the spot! I enlisted in the Army on 14 August 1917."

Before being accepted into the United States Army, he was turned down by the Marine Corps due to his slight weight.

In 1917, Buckles was sent to Europe on the RMS Carpathia, which had rescued RMS Titanic survivors five years earlier. While on the Carpathia, Buckles spoke with crewmembers who had taken part in the rescue of Titanic survivors. During the war Buckles served in England and France, driving ambulances and motorcycles for the Army's 1st Fort Riley Casual Detachment. After the Armistice in 1918, Buckles escorted prisoners of war back to Germany. Following his discharge in 1920.

Last years:

Buckles lived near Charles Town, West Virginia. Buckles stated in an interview with The Washington Post on Veterans' Day 2007 that he believed the United States should go to war only "when it's an emergency."[7][8] When asked about the secret of his long life, Buckles replied: "Hope," adding, "[W]hen you start to die... don't." He also said the reason he had lived so long was that, "I never got in a hurry."

The U.S. Library of Congress included Buckles in its Veterans History Project and has audio, video and pictorial information on Buckles's experiences in both world wars, including a full 148-minute video interview. Buckles' life was featured on the Memorial Day 2007 episode of NBC Nightly News.

For the past four years, photographer David DeJonge has been documenting and interviewing Frank for a 2012 estimated release of a feature length documentary on the life of Frank Buckles entitled "Pershing's Last Patriot". There is also a fundraising campaign on where donations are encouraged toward the production of the film.

On February 4, 2008, with the death of 108-year-old Harry Richard Landis, Buckles became the last surviving American World War I veteran.

On March 6, 2008, he met with President George W. Bush at the White House. The same day, he attended the opening of a Pentagon exhibit featuring photos of nine centenarian World War I veterans created by historian and photographer David DeJonge.

Buckles said that when he died, he would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was eligible for cremation and placement in a columbarium at Arlington, but expressed a desire for burial there, which he was not eligible for under current Arlington policy, which requires a veteran to have a Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, or have been killed in action.

Friends and family members took up his cause, but made no headway until a relative, Ken Buckles, contacted Ross Perot, whom Frank had met at a history seminar in 2001. Within two weeks, Perot had successfully intervened with the White House, and on March 19, 2008, Buckles received special approval for underground burial at Arlington.

The French and the British will send delegates to his funeral. The French plan to send a Defence Ministry official and hope to send two honor guards and pallbearers. The British will send the air-vice marshal and possibly the British Ambassador.

Buckles was the Honorary Chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation, which seeks refurbishment of the District of Columbia War Memorial and its establishment as the National World War I Memorial on the National Mall. Buckles appeared before Congress on December 3, 2009, advocating on behalf of such legislation.

On February 1, 2010, on Buckles's 109th birthday, his official biographer announced that he will be completing a film—currently in production—on Buckles's life. The film is a cumulative work of three years of interviews and intimate moments gathered by DeJonge as he traveled the nation with Buckles.

Months away from his 110th birthday, in autumn 2010, Buckles was still giving media interviews. Buckles reached supercentenarian status upon his 110th birthday, on February 1, 2011.

On February 27, 2011, 26 days after his 110th birthday, Buckles died of natural causes.


For his service during World War I, Buckles received (from the U.S. Government) the World War I Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, and qualified for four Overseas Service Bars. In addition, French president Jacques Chirac awarded him France's L├ęgion d'honneur.

On May 25, 2008, Buckles received the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Gold Medal of Merit at the Liberty Memorial. He sat for a portrait taken by David DeJonge that will hang in the National World War I Museum, as "the last surviving link."

Buckles received the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry's Knight Commander of the Court of Honour (KCCH) on Sept. 24, 2008. The KCCH is the last honor bestowed by the Southern Jurisdiction prior to the 33°. The ceremony was hosted by Ronald Seale, 33°, Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A. The keynote address was provided by James Peake, Secretary of Veteran Affairs.

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