America’s Last Surviving Veteran of World War I Dies at 110 Years Old
The last ever surviving U.S. veteran of World War I has died aged 110.
Frank Buckles, who lied about his age to get into uniform during the war, also survived being a civilian POW in the Philippines in World War II.
He died peacefully of natural causes on Sunday at his home in Charles Town having just hit the 110 milestone at the beginning of the month.
At the time he had been advocating for a national memorial honouring veterans of the Great War in Washington, D.C.
When asked what it felt like to be the last of his kind he said: ‘I realized that somebody had to be, and it was me. Without a doubt I would do it all over again.’
Born in Missouri in 1901 and raised in Oklahoma, Buckles visited a string of military recruiters after the United States entered the ‘war to end all wars’ in April 1917.
He was repeatedly rejected before convincing an Army captain he was 18. He was only 16 and a half at the time.
He said: ‘A boy of (that age), he’s not afraid of anything. He wants to get in there.’
More than 4.7 million people joined the U.S. military from 1917-18.
As of spring 2007, only three were still alive, according to a tally by the Department of Veterans Affairs: Buckles, J. Russell Coffey of Ohio and Harry Richard Landis of Florida.
The dwindling roster prompted a flurry of public interest, and Buckles went to Washington in May 2007 to serve as grand marshal of the national Memorial Day parade.
Coffey died on 20 December, 2007, at age 109, while Landis died on 4 February, 2008, at 108.
Unlike Buckles, those two men were still in basic training in the United States when the war ended and did not make it overseas.
The last known Canadian veteran of the war, John Babcock of Spokane, Washington, died in February 2010.
Buckles served in England and France, working mainly as a driver and a warehouse clerk. The fact he did not see combat did not diminish his service.
He said: ‘Didn’t I make every effort?’
In 1941, while on business in the Philippines, Buckles was captured by the Japanese. He spent three and a half years in prison camps.
He has previously spoken of his trouble getting into the military, saying: ‘I went to the state fair up in Wichita, Kansas, and while there, went to the recruiting station for the Marine Corps.
‘The nice Marine sergeant said I was too young when I gave my age as 18, said I had to be 21.’
He then returned a week later.
‘I went back to the recruiting sergeant, and this time I was 21,’ he said. ‘I passed the inspection … but he told me I just wasn’t heavy enough.’
Then he tried the Navy, whose recruiter told Buckles he was flat-footed but he still did not quit.
In Oklahoma City, an Army captain demanded a birth certificate though Buckles told him: ‘I said birth certificates were not made in Missouri when I was born, that the record was in a family Bible. I said, “You don’t want me to bring the family Bible down, do you?” He said, “OK, we’ll take you”.
‘I was never actually looking for adventure. It just came to me.’
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