November 11th, 2009

Frank Buckles — The Last Living American WWI Veteran

4,734,991 Americans served in uniform during World War I. They fought on land and sea, in the first true global conflict. By the end of WWI over 15,000,000 soldiers and civilians worldwide had died in that conflict, including 120,000 Americans (as many from disease as from wounds). A thousand U.S. Soldiers died every DAY in the 3-week Meuse-Argonne offensive.

Frank Buckles — The Last Doughboy
This past July, Britain’s Harry Patch died at age 111. Patch had been the oldest soldier-survivor of the “War to End All Wars.” Now American Frank Woodruff Buckles, 108, Britisher Claude Choules, 108, and Canadian John Babcock, 107, stand as the last known veterans of World War I. Buckles lives quietly on a farm in West Virginia. He still remembers his service in the Great War, explaining why he joined the Army at age 16: “When your nation calls,” Buckles said, “you have to go”. (Read recent interview.)

Now, 91 years since the end of WWI, 108-year-old Army veteran Frank Buckles is our last living link with the American “Doughboys” who fought in Europe. His story is a profile in patriotism (and youthful exuberance). When only 16 years old, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Marines. They turned him down, so he joined the Army, lying about his age. He served in Britain and France as an ambulance driver, then helped escort German prisoners home to Germany after the surrender.

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Following WWI, Buckles wanted to see the world, so he took work with a steamship company. That job placed him in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded. He was captured and interred in a prison camp for three years before being liberated. Below is a CNN feature on Frank Buckles. As all other American WWI vets have passed away, Buckles was honored as the last U.S. Soldier to fight in the “Great War”. To learn more about Frank Buckles and his experiences in WWI, CLICK HERE for a USAToday Feature Story. (Highly recommended–worth reading.)

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