Frank Buckles, America’s last surviving World War I veteran, died Sunday at 110, unable to live long enough to see his dream of a national monument to US veterans of the Great War become a reality.
Buckles, who lied about his age in 1917 when he was 16 so he could enlist, was one of more than 70 million men and women worldwide who served in the “War to End All Wars,” the greatest conflict mankind had witnessed to that point.
He was turned down repeatedly before finally being accepted into military service. The Army sent him to France, where he drove ambulances and motorcycles.
After the armistice, he helped return German prisoners of war to their country.
According to a New York Times story, Buckles told of having witnessed a ceremony involving British veterans of the Crimean War, fought in the 1850s, when he was stationed in England before heading to France.
And he remembered talking with General John J. Pershing, the commander of American troops in World War I, at an event in Oklahoma City soon after the war’s end.
He eventually married and moved to West Virginia, where he lived with his daughter until his death.
Last year, US Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and US Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., co-sponsored a bill to rededicate and restore a monument in Washington, D.C., honoring the 499 District of Columbia residents who died in World War I.
Their bill called for authorizing a new sculpture to make the monument a national memorial honoring all 4.7 million Americans who served in the 1914-18 conflict.
Buckles returned to civilian life following World War I but still got caught up in the Second World War. In 1941, he was working in Manila for the American President Line, a shipping company.
When the Japanese invaded the Philippines during World War II, Buckles was captured and spent more than three years in a prisoner-of-war camp before he was rescued by American forces.
With Buckles’ passing, there are but two WWI veterans left: Florence Beatrice Green, who joined in 1918 and served as a waitress for the Womens RAF and lives in Norfolk, England; and Claude Choules of Perth, Australia, who joined the Royal Navy in 1916 and is the last living witness to the scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow.
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