Frank Woodruff Buckles, considered to be the last American veteran alive of World War I, died yesterday at the age of 110. When Mr Buckles was 107 years old, he said he knew he would be one of the last to go because he was one of the youngest when he joined. He enlisted in the Army when he was only 16 years old (after a little white lie about his birth date). Buckles said said he was a “snappy” and “gung-ho” soldier. See a video below.
Mr. Buckles was an ambulance driver in France, and later, during WWII, he was a civilian prisoner of the Japenese for three years after the Japanese invasion.
On February 1st, 2011 Mr. Buckles celebrated his 110th birthday, with two other survivors of the First World War still living – both British, one of whom is Florence Green, a female, and Claude Choules, now believed to live in Australia. The following quote from bill Lohmann:
Today most kids lies about their age in order to buy a pack of cigarettes or a case of beer. Buckles, only 16 at the time, did so in order to enlist in the Army. It was there that he met Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, leader of the U.S. forces in Europe during WWI.
Pershing noted Buckles’ Missouri dialect and asked where he was born. Buckles told him. Pershing’s reply: “Thirty-three miles, as the crow flies, from where I was born.”
Buckles was immediately taken with Pershing and counts him as one of his favorite people to speak about. “I had great respect for Pershing,” he said, “He was real tough. He didn’t have a smile on his face, but that was all right with me.”
Mr. Buckles had an adventurous spirit. He attended a business school in Oklahoma City after the war, and worked for a bank. He took a job with the White Star Line and traveled all over the world, including to Manila, Philippines.
Buckles spent about 3 1/2 years at the Santo Tomas and Los Banos internment camps. At Los Banos, he said in a 2009 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, he once saw three prisoners nearly beaten to death.
“There was no mercy as far as the Japanese were concerned,” he said.
Buckles, who led daily fitness classes in the camp, said food became scarce as Japan began losing the war. He had gone in weighing 140 pounds and had lost more than 50 pounds by the time the camp was liberated in February 1945.
Mr. Buckles drove his car and and farm tractor until he was 102! His father died at 97 and his sister at 104 years of age, with others on his mother’s side reaching 100. His wife Audrey Mayo Buckles died in 1999. Buckles died of natural causes at his 330-acre cattle farm in West Virginia where he lived with his son-in-law and daughter, Susannah Flanagan.
Many honored Buckles. He received the World War I Victory Medal, the U.S. Army of Occupation of German Medal, the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Gold Medal of Merit, and the French Legion of Honor Medal. He received a 110th birthday card from George W. Bush, who had received him at the White House in 2008 when he was recognized and honored by Congress.
Over 4 million soldiers, sailors and marines from WWI went before him. Buckles said if someone had to be the last WWI veteran, “it might as well be me.” View additional videos of Mr. Buckles at History.com.
Frank Woodruff Buckles American WWI Soldier Dies (video)