News / USA

    Last American World War I Veteran Dies

    Portrait of Frank Buckles, taken February 28, 2011, at the Pentagon, where anonymous workers placed white roses and a handwritten note in his memory. Buckles, the last known American veteran of World War I, died Sunday at age 110. He attended the portrait
    Portrait of Frank Buckles, taken February 28, 2011, at the Pentagon, where anonymous workers placed white roses and a handwritten note in his memory. Buckles, the last known American veteran of World War I, died Sunday at age 110. He attended the portrait
    Al Pessin

    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. VOA Pentagon Correspondent Al Pessin had the chance to speak to Mr. Buckles several years ago and filed this remembrance.

    "I did not lie [LAUGHTER].  Nobody calls me a liar! [LAUGHTER]”

    Mr. Buckles had us laughing that day in March of 2008, when he came to the Pentagon for the unveiling of a set of new portraits of himself and other World War I veterans. He admitted he exaggerated his age, twice, in order to join the Army in 1917, when he was just 15 years old. But with a wink he said that did not make him a liar.

    “I had added some years onto my age and was 18. He [the recruiter] said, ‘Sorry, but you have to be 21.’ So I came back later and I had aged. I was 21. [LAUGHTER]”

    And he was still lying about his age, just a little bit.

    “I do not feel that I am any older than you are,” said Buckles.

    In fact, he was more than twice as old as any of the Pentagon reporters who interviewed him that day.

    On Monday, anonymous Pentagon workers put white roses and a handwritten note on his portrait. The note reads, "Thank you for your service to our country. May you and your generation rest in peace."

    Three years ago, Buckles captivated the crowd from his wheelchair in the Pentagon auditorium, as speakers, including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, offered their praise and thanks.

    “We cherish the memory of those who have passed away," said Gates. "We cherish the chance to say thank you in person to Corporal Frank Buckles. We will always be grateful for what they did for their country 90 years ago, and feel glad, too, for the longevity that they enjoyed on this earth.”

    Buckles also was welcomed at the White House that week, by then-president George W. Bush.

    “It has been my high honor to welcome Mr. Buckles, and his daughter, Susannah, here to the Oval Office," said Bush. "Mr. Buckles has a vivid recollection of historic times. And one way for me to honor the service of those who wear the uniform in the past and those who wear it today is to herald you, sir, and to thank you very much for your patriotism and your love for America.”

    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 Pentagon’s many corridors.

    In a statement issued Monday, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle praised Buckles, saying he continued to serve America until his death, as the Honorary Chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation. The Obamas said they join the Buckles family “in celebrating a remarkable life that reminds us of the true meaning of patriotism and our obligations to each other as Americans.”  

    In one sense, Frank Buckles was not much different from millions of other World War One veterans. With his enthusiasm to serve and his longevity, however, it certainly was possible to say about him what he said about that Pentagon ceremony three years ago.

    “Really, it was remarkable. I enjoyed every minute of it here.”

    Related video story by D. Block (November 2008)

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.