Skip to comments.Last American World War I Veteran Dies
Posted on 02/28/2011 4:31:31 PM PST by DBCJR
The last known American veteran of World War I died Sunday at his home in West Virginia. Former U.S. Army Corporal Frank Buckles was 110 years old...
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. The cup he ate out of for all that time is in the background of his 2008 portrait, which now hangs with eight others along one of the Pentagons many corridors...
Rest in peace, you represent a part of our history we rarely learn anymore. WWI was quite horrific and heroes like you defeated unspeakable enemies.
Thank you for your service.
The last of a great generation. This is a sore loss. Rest in peace, soldier, you’ve carried your rifle far enough.
And 3 years in a prison in WWII.
A true American hero.
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Rest in peace, as the last member of a generation that knew how to make sacrifices for the greater good of his country.
Last U.S. veteran of ‘Great War’ dies
Frank Buckles, 110, lied about his age to join Army
By Allen G. Breed, Associated Press
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
What was it like?
What was it like in the trenches? What was it like in all those places whose names have faded in the dusty recesses of memory, places like Ypres and Gallipoli, Verdun and the Marne? What was it like to fight the war that was supposed to make the world safe for democracy?
There’s no one left to ask.
The Great War has almost passed from living memory. The veterans have slipped away, one by one, their obituaries marking the end of the line in country after country: Harry Patch, Britain’s last survivor of the trenches; Lazare Ponticelli, the last of the French “poilu”; Erich Kastner, the last of the Germans.
And now, Frank Buckles, dead at age 110, the last U.S. veteran of World War I. Missouri boy. Sixteen years old, he lied about his age to get into the Army and badgered his superiors until they sent him to the French front with an ambulance unit, one of 4.7 million Yanks who answered the call to go “Over There.”
All of them gone. None of them surviving to tell us about a brutish, bloody conflict that set new standards for horror.
It started with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 — a tripwire for cataclysm.
By the time the Americans entered the war in April 1917, the Europeans had been hammering each other for three bloody years.
Much of the French and Belgian countryside had been turned into a no man’s land of barbed-wire entanglements, bounded on either side by serpentine networks of fortified trenches, all grass and trees burned away.
Man had invented an array of new tools for killing, and it seemed all of Europe was their proving ground.
Artillery shells carried Bis(2-chloroethyl) sulfide liquid that vaporized into the yellowish-brown cloud that was nicknamed “mustard gas.” Heavier than the air around it, it descended into the trenches, enveloping the men in a foul-smelling mist that would leave their lungs burning, their eyes swollen shut and their skin blistered beneath their woolen uniforms.
Barely a decade after the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, the airplane had been perverted from a marvel of human ingenuity into an instrument of terror, raining death from the skies.
Machine guns had been around since the 1880s, but the Germans brought a stereotypical efficiency to their use. From strategically placed nests, they could lay down a withering crossfire that easily broke the back of the traditional infantry charge. In July 1916, German machine-gunners along the Somme reportedly killed 21,000 British soldiers in a single day.
The devastating effect of the machine gun led to other weapons designed to break the stalemate. Flame-throwers were ideal at flushing out an entrenched enemy, and primitive tanks lumbered across battlefields, rolling over the quick and dead alike.
By the time the Germans surrendered on Nov. 11, 1918, the carnage was almost beyond comprehension: Nearly 20 million civilian and military casualties. More than 116,000 American dead, including more than 53,000 killed in combat.
It was a toll so horrifying that the world would spend the next decade devising a treaty to forever “condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”
Many, including a young Frank Buckles, hoped and even dared believe that H.G. Wells was right — that this would be the war to end all wars.
‘The humble patriot’
He didn’t seek the spotlight, but when Frank Buckles outlived every other American who’d served in World War I, he became what his biographer called “the humble patriot” and final torchbearer for the memory of that fading conflict.
He devoted the last years of his life to campaigning for greater recognition for his former comrades, prodding politicians to support a national memorial in Washington and working with friend and family spokesman David DeJonge on a biography.
“We were always asking ourselves: How can we represent this story to the world?” DeJonge said Monday. “How can we make sure World War I isn’t forgotten?”
Buckles constantly asked his daughter, Susannah Flanagan, about progress toward a memorial.
“He was sad it’s not completed,” DeJonge said. “It’s a simple straightforward thing to do, to honor Americans.”