28 February 2011

RIP: Frank Buckles

Frank Woodruff Buckles
1 Feb 1901 – 27 Feb 2011

The last surviving US veteran of World War I has died. ZUI this article from Fox News:
He was repeatedly rejected by military recruiters and got into uniform at 16 after lying about his age. But Frank Buckles would later become the last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I.

Buckles, who also survived being a civilian POW in the Philippines in World War II, died of natural causes Sunday at his home in Charles Town, biographer and family spokesman David DeJonge said in a statement. He was 110.


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.


Coffey died Dec. 20, 2007, at age 109, while Landis died Feb. 4, 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, Wash., died in February 2010.

There are no French or German veterans of the war left alive.

Buckles served in England and France, working mainly as a driver and a warehouse clerk. The fact he did not see combat didn't diminish his service, he said: "Didn't I make every effort?"


He married in 1946 and moved to his farm in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle in 1954, where he and wife Audrey raised their daughter, Susannah Flanagan. Audrey Buckles died in 1999.

ZUI also this article from Voice of America News:
Buckles wanted to serve when World War I broke out, and his lie to the recruiter made it possible. Shortly afterward, at age 16, he deployed to Europe as an ambulance driver. He saw the horror of war close up, ferrying the wounded from the trenches to primitive field hospitals. Later, he drove German prisoners back to Germany.

Buckles left the army in 1920 and years later he went to work for a shipping company in the Philippines. When World War II broke out, he and other Americans there were put in prison camps by the occupying Japanese forces. Although he was not a soldier at that time, he spent more than three years in the notorious Los Baňos prison.

According to Wikipedia, there are now only two surviving WWI veterans: Claude Choules, in Australia, who served with the Royal Navy,* and Women's Royal Air Force veteran Florence Green. The last Italian veteran, Delfino Borroni, died on 26 Oct 08; the last Australian, John Campbell Ross, on 3 Jun 09; the last French veteran, Pierre Picault, on 20 Nov 08, and the last Canadian, John Babcock, on 18 Feb 2010. On the other side, the last German veteran, Erich Kästner, died on 1 Jan 08; the last Turkish veteran, Yakup Satar, on 2 Apr 2008; and the last Austro-Hungarian veteran, Franz Künstler, on 27 May 2008. (Künstler was born in Hungary; the last Austrian-born survivor was August Bischof, who died on 4 March 2006.)

* Choules also served in World War II, with the Royal Australian Navy.

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