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Old 02-28-2011, 10:58 AM   #1
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Last living US WWI vet dies in W. Va. at age 110

Last living US WWI vet dies in W. Va. at age 110


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. Frank Buckles was repeatedly rejected by military recruiters and got into uniform at 16 after lying about his age. He 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. He was 110.

Buckles would have want people to remember him as "the last torchbearer" for World War I, DeJonge said Monday.

Buckles had been advocating for a national memorial honoring veterans of the Great War in the nation's capital and asked about its progress weekly, sometimes daily.

"He was sad it's not completed," DeJonge said. "It's a simple straightforward thing to do, to honor Americans."

When asked in February 2008 how it felt to be the last of his kind, he said simply, "I realized that somebody had to be, and it was me." And he told The Associated Press he would have done it all over again, "without a doubt."

On Nov. 11, 2008, the 90th anniversary of the end of the war, Buckles attended a ceremony at the grave of World War I Gen. John Pershing in Arlington National Cemetery.

He was back in Washington a year later to endorse a proposal to rededicate the existing World War I memorial on the National Mall as the official National World War I Memorial. He told a Senate panel it was "an excellent idea." The memorial was originally built to honor District of Columbia's war dead.

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 actually 16 1/2.

"A boy of (that age), he's not afraid of anything. He wants to get in there," Buckles said.

Details for services and arrangements will be announced later this week, but DeJonge said Buckles' daughter, Susannah Flanagan, is planning for burial in Arlington National Cemetery. In 2008, friends persuaded the federal government to make an exception to its rules and allow his burial there.

Buckles had already been eligible to have his cremated remains housed at the cemetery. To be buried underground, however, he would have had to meet several criteria, including earning one of five medals, such as a Purple Heart.

Buckles never saw combat but joked, "Didn't I make every effort?"

The family asked that donations be made to the National World War One Legacy Project. The project is managed by the nonprofit Survivor Quest and will educate students about Buckles and WWI through a documentary and traveling educational exhibition.

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 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. An eager student of culture and language, he used his off-duty hours to learn German, visit cathedrals, museums and tombs, and bicycle in the French countryside.

After Armistice Day, Buckles helped return prisoners of war to Germany. He returned to the United States in January 1920.

Buckles returned to Oklahoma for a while, then moved to Canada, where he worked a series of jobs before heading for New York City. There, he again took advantage of free museums, worked out at the YMCA, and landed jobs in banking and advertising.

But it was the shipping industry that suited him best, and he worked around the world for the White Star Line Steamship Co. and W.R. Grace & Co.

In 1941, while on business in the Philippines, Buckles was captured by the Japanese. He spent more than three years in prison camps.

"I was never actually looking for adventure," Buckles once said. "It just came to me."

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. Audrey Buckles died in 1999.

In spring 2007, Buckles told the AP of the trouble he went through to get into the military.

"I went to the state fair up in Wichita, Kansas, and while there, went to the recruiting station for the Marine Corps," he said. "The nice Marine sergeant said I was too young when I gave my age as 18, said I had to be 21."

Buckles returned a week later.

"I went back to the recruiting sergeant, and this time I was 21," he said with a grin. "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.

Buckles wouldn't quit. In Oklahoma City, an Army captain demanded a birth certificate.

"I told him 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?'" Buckles said with a laugh. "He said, 'OK, we'll take you.'"

He enlisted Aug. 14, 1917, serial number 15577.
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Old 02-28-2011, 11:38 AM   #2
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Thanks for the note.

FYI: Kansas City, MO, has a fabulous WWI museum.

I do not desire to sound morbid, but they have the pocket contents of the first American soldier killed. It is surreal...
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Old 02-28-2011, 12:10 PM   #3
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I saw this on the news this morning. With all the focus on the aging of WW2 veterans, it's easy to forget that there were still vets from WW1 around.

RIP Frank Buckles.
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Old 02-28-2011, 07:48 PM   #4
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i remember hearing about him 2 years ago.
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Old 02-28-2011, 11:20 PM   #5
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I wrote this article back in 2009 when Mr Babcock celebrated his 109th birthday.

Happy Birthday Mr Babcock! July 29, 2009

You're probably wondering who Mr Babcock is and I'm going to tell you. Mr John Babcock is 109 years young today and happens to be Canada's last known World War One veteran. That's right, he's our last one and one of five remaining veterans out of 65,038,810 men and women who stood to protect our countries during the war. The remaining four veterans are in the UK and the United States. Five men stand on the brink of extinction for an entire generation and all we seem to be concerned with these days are what celebrity's alcohol content was in their DUI or what colour was the dress Michelle Obama wore to meet a group of Kindergarten kids or that our Prime Minister was late for a photo shoot and maybe palmed a Communion wafer. If these men had fur or feathers we would be screaming to protect them as an endangered species. Instead, we are hurdling down a path that will very quickly forget who and what these men and women did for us. What we are witness to is the end of an era and five men are all that are left of that time. Do we care? If you are like most people, you probably just read about World War One in school, attended a few Remembrance Day ceremonies and when you left school, you left those men and women behind in the pages of the history books. Maybe if you are tad older than the Man on the Moon generation, you might have had an uncle or grandfather that could have been a World War One veteran. Five men left and each celebrating every day that they are with us. Are we reciprocating by remembering who they are and what they did for us?

What has this particular post have to do with art you may be asking? A lot actually. During the war, and long before television, twitter, blogs and online news and our incessant need to know what colour underwear our bad boy or girl celebrity is wearing, we had artists slogging through the fronts, painting pictures of the war for those back home to see. It was the only way to show the colour as colour photography was a long way off from being available as well as the visual horror that men like the last five would have had to face on the fronts. Yes, even back then society wanted to see the visuals of what was going on. Back then a sketch or painting was worth the 1000 words. But where are these paintings now? They are hidden in museum vaults and warehouses are thousands upon thousands of sketches, paintings and sculptures all depicting the captured moments of a war that was supposed to be the war to end all wars but mostly they have been forgotten.

These paintings and works are not pretty, they are not about fields of flowers or crisp sunsets they are about death, dying and injury. But then, war depictions never are pretty as the subject itself is about as ugly as humanity can get. These paintings are however, fascinating to study and consider. And consider them we must. I recently participated in a discussion over an artist's work that depicted the male organ in the hands of a female. There was they usual hue and cry about whether it was art or a cartoon or even if had merit. It seems along with the bad boy's underwear, we only like pretty art. Of course we do. Who wants to surround themselves with male organs, dying soldiers or ugly art? The paintings that chronicled the war to end all wars - the war that John Babcock signed on the dotted line to fight for as a young man of 17, are ugly and they are if the current criteria of meritorious art were to be used they would be mere cartoons or worse not having any merit at all. Yet, the men and women like John Babcock, through their sacrifices, ensured that we have the right to paint these very pictures. To refute them or any other work of art that is ugly or is controversial, is an insult to what these men and women fought, lived, loved and died for - the right to free expression.

Once these last five men leave us forever, all we will have left that will speak of that era are the paintings and sculptures. We will find like so many generations before us, that the study of history will only be available through the arts that are left whether they are visual, literature, theatrical or musical. Until that time, let's raise a glass and toast these five men and wish them a longer life. We must accept the ugly, the controversial along with the beautiful works of art - they are our histories and our hard earned right.

Edited to Add: Mr Harry Patch of the UK, age 108 passed away on July 25th, 2009. He was known in the UK as the "Last Tommy". Then there were four. Bless them all.

We have now reached the end of an era and a generation lost. Lest We Forget.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:24 AM   #6
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It was an interesting story. I have been a few of the battle grounds in France. They are not that far from my base in Germany.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:41 AM   #7
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heard on the news last night that ther are two WWI vets left in the world, an Australian and one English.
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Old 03-01-2011, 02:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ndnsoldierboy View Post
It was an interesting story. I have been a few of the battle grounds in France. They are not that far from my base in Germany.
I think Normandy would freak me out.

No, I am not a big "the spirits walk among us guy" and, for example, Arlington doesn't make me feel odd, it's just the historical nature of the place that has any personal impact. But, in general, no emphatic emotional impact, here, related to there.

But Normandy would, I think, create a feeling...

It's the same feeling I get when walking the deck of an old Essex class aircraft carrier, realizing this ship took kamikaze hits -- and survived with still recognizable discoloration in the bulkhead armor -- when my late grandfather(s) were less than half my current age...

Powwows (as many of you must have noted by now), mausoleums, cemeteries (even that of my tribe), most churches, etc? They don't give me that, or any, feeling...

But places/things? Tangible? That stuff is real.

For example, I once touched a girder that had been part of the structure of World Trade Center Tower Two in NYC. Ran my hand up and down its length. Felt where the steel had different texture due to heat and pressure. I'm telling you, that thing was alive.

For me, places are like that, too.

I think I could stand on the beach at Normandy and perceive what it must have been like to be a defender, knowing there were too many troops to successfully repel. I, also, think I could envision riding in on a landing craft and looking at those cliffs, knowing the severe and unforgiving price to be paid in order to secure a beachhead.

Again, I think I would freak out.

The Allied cemetery? Up on the hill? Those spirits are gone, man. That's just where it was chosen to leave the bones. That's not important. (With respect and all, that's just how I see it. For example, when I'm gone, do what must be done here -- I'll hang out for that -- but, then, I'm going to the other side and I'll meet you, there. Screw my bones.) But the place where it HAPPENED?

That's history.

Frank Buckles was history.

Thanks for your service, Doughboy Buckles.
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Old 03-01-2011, 02:14 PM   #9
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The Australian gent, Claude Choules, is actually a veteran from Great Britains's Royal Navy. He immigrated to Oz after WWI in 1926. He joined the Australian Navy in 1926.

The other remaining vet is Florence Green, served in 1918 in the Royal Airforce as a waitress.
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Old 03-01-2011, 02:23 PM   #10
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there is a cemetary in France, i always forget where is it, i think its the one for Belleau Wood that every year, children from the area schools would go to the American millitary cemetary and sing the American Anthem.
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Old 03-02-2011, 10:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeke View Post
I think Normandy would freak me out.

No, I am not a big "the spirits walk among us guy" and, for example, Arlington doesn't make me feel odd, it's just the historical nature of the place that has any personal impact. But, in general, no emphatic emotional impact, here, related to there.

But Normandy would, I think, create a feeling...

It's the same feeling I get when walking the deck of an old Essex class aircraft carrier, realizing this ship took kamikaze hits -- and survived with still recognizable discoloration in the bulkhead armor -- when my late grandfather(s) were less than half my current age...

Powwows (as many of you must have noted by now), mausoleums, cemeteries (even that of my tribe), most churches, etc? They don't give me that, or any, feeling...

But places/things? Tangible? That stuff is real.

For example, I once touched a girder that had been part of the structure of World Trade Center Tower Two in NYC. Ran my hand up and down its length. Felt where the steel had different texture due to heat and pressure. I'm telling you, that thing was alive.

For me, places are like that, too.

I think I could stand on the beach at Normandy and perceive what it must have been like to be a defender, knowing there were too many troops to successfully repel. I, also, think I could envision riding in on a landing craft and looking at those cliffs, knowing the severe and unforgiving price to be paid in order to secure a beachhead.

Again, I think I would freak out.

The Allied cemetery? Up on the hill? Those spirits are gone, man. That's just where it was chosen to leave the bones. That's not important. (With respect and all, that's just how I see it. For example, when I'm gone, do what must be done here -- I'll hang out for that -- but, then, I'm going to the other side and I'll meet you, there. Screw my bones.) But the place where it HAPPENED?

That's history.

Frank Buckles was history.

Thanks for your service, Doughboy Buckles.
I have been to a few of the World War II sites, Okinawa, Guam, There are lots caves that were buried by the U.S. forces on the island hopping campaign and there were a lot of Japanese soldiers buried cause they refused to surrender. No telling on how long the survived in those caves after they were sealed.

Pearl Harbor is another I have been to. The USS AZ...how long did those sailors entombed survive in there? Sad...

I yet to see Normandy, but later this year I will be there. Have been to Verdun, St. Mihiel, Argonne. Will be checking out more of Europe when I return of course. Lots to see and do there.


I did stop by Ground Zero, twice. That is so sad as well...
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Come on Rez Dawg, you can make it, just another step to go....
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Old 03-02-2011, 12:40 PM   #12
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I accompanied my grandfathers to the beaches and places where they both had been during their service in WWII. One grandfather had landed at Sword on June 6 1944 and the other one had his ship blown out from under him near Singapore on Dec 10, 1941.

When we paid our respects to the war dead, my grandfather who had been at D-Day, pointed out the names of his friends and men under his command... there were so many of them, yet, he knew them all. When we walked the beaches, he pointed out the places where they took fire as they scrambled up the beach and where his men fell. If you stand on the beach it's not a big beach and you can only imagine how hard it was to crawl those few hundred feet with everything being thrown at you by the gun turrets/bunkers. For years I had grown up with my grandfather showing me his "flesh wound" that he got during D-Day. A chunk of his bicep was missing - bullet went through it tearing off the muscle. After seeing the beach, knowing that he had to crawl to the top of the beach with a chunk of his arm missing and then continued to fight for days after that, made me very aware that an ache or two from my carcass was pale in comparison. Put a whole new spin on what an owie was for me...

We then went to visit the memorials at Vimy and Passchendaele where there were six graves where his father's brothers lay. Out of the ten boys that went off to war from that family only three returned... one was listed as MIA and his body was never found/identified. I can't imagine the sorrow his grandmother must have gone through. For me, the journey to these grave sites was a family history lesson.. a great uncle, a cousin, a brother, a sister all are buried across Europe and the Far East.

When we went to Singapore, we took a boat out to where the ships had gone down so we could lay a wreath for those that went down with them. The distance from the shore was shocking to me as I had grown up listening to the accounts of that night and how many of the men swam to shore amidst strafing from the planes. The will to live for these men was high that night. I had a renewed sense of awe for my grandfather after that as not only did he swim ashore dragging an injured sailor with him, but he survived four years in a POW camp in Burma.

I think I was very lucky to have made those trips with my grandfathers as it allowed me to have a glimpse of what their lives were all about.
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A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. Robert A. Heinlein

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Old 03-02-2011, 01:38 PM   #13
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[QUOTE=Ndnsoldierboy;1460288]I have been to a few of the World War II sites, Okinawa, Guam, There are lots caves that were buried by the U.S. forces on the island hopping campaign and there were a lot of Japanese soldiers buried cause they refused to surrender. No telling on how long the survived in those caves after they were sealed. /QUOTE]

I lived on Guam for 5 years. In 1973 Japanese Imperial Army Sgt Sochoi Yokoi was found in the Guam jungle near the village of Talofofo, still hiding out since WWII. Guam was occupied by the Japanese forces 1941 to 1944 until liberated by U.S. forces.

He never surrendered because of the Bushido beliefs it would be a dishonor.
He was alive and well, living off the jungle fruits, birds, and fresh water shrimp (that is a strong message for living on a Native diet, huh?).

Sgt. Yokoi was returned to Japan, and welcomed as a national hero, and married a MUCH younger geisha beauty!

In 1975, some friends and I found Japanese Army remains of 3 soldiers up in limestone cliff caves overlooking Apra Harbor. I knew not to mess with their bones, most of their weapons and equipment was rusted or rotted.

We salvaged the gunpowder from the rifle bullets, it still burned! We made some cool firesnakes out of long sections of masking tape with gunpowder down the middle. When we laid those on the ground, and lit the tail, they would zoom off like crazy shooting a trail of stinky green/grey smoke.
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