Frank Buckles served his nation for 11 decades
Frank Woodruff Buckles — America’s last survivor of the First World War. To donate to his legacy, visit http://frankbuckles.org/
Frank Woodruff Buckles was 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.
A diligent patriot his entire life, Frank loved and honored his nation for 11 decades. Frank was born on Feb. 1, 1901. At the age of 16, he witnessed the European theatre of World War I, serving in the United States Army as an ambulance driver. In World War II, he became a Prisoner of War in the Philippines and was imprisoned for 39 months. After his return, Frank settled down in West Virginia to his humble farm, where he lived until his death on Feb. 27, 2011, at the age of 110.
A visit to his website, frankbuckles.org, reveals an incredible and inspiring biography:
Frank Woodruff Buckles’ life spanned the awesome, horrible, fantastic, dreadful Twentieth Century. He saw and experienced much. As America’s last surviving veteran witness to the First World War, his life experiences and perspective are an artifact in our day which often lacks perspective. Frank’s story, in his own words:
I was born on my father’s farm north of Bethany in Harrison County, Missouri, on 1 February 1901. My father retired in 1905 and bought property in the small town of Coffey, where I started school. In 1910, he bought a farm in Vernon County, near Walker, Missouri, where we enjoyed country living. In December 1916, we moved to Dewey County, Oklahoma, near Oakwood. I was 15 at the time, and I accompanied a boxcar load of draft horses and equipment to the farm. I knew that my father was planning to arrange for a man to take the horses to Oklahoma. He would be paid $20 and transportation back to Missouri. I asked my father if I could do the job, and he agreed. My parents came later by automobile.
In the charming little frontier town of Oakwood, population 300, I worked at the bank, lived at the hotel, and went to high school. On 6 April 1917, the United States entered the Great War and patriotic posters appeared in the post offices.
When summer vacation came, I was invited to the Kansas State Fair in Wichita. While there, I went to the Marine Corps recruiting office to enlist. I said that I was 18, but the understanding sergeant said that I was too young; I had to be 21. I went to Lamed, Kansas, to visit my father’s mother who was living with my aunt and uncle who owned a bank in Larned. A week later, I returned to Wichita and went to the Marine recruiting station. This time I stated that I was 21. The same sergeant gave me a physical examination, but kindly told me that I was just not heavy enough. I tried the Navy and passed the tests, but they were perhaps suspicious of my age and told me that I was flat-footed.
I decided to try elsewhere, so I went to Oklahoma City. There I had no luck with either the Marines or the Navy. I then tried the Army, but was asked for a birth certificate. I told them that the public records were not made of births in Missouri at the time I was born, and my record would be in the family Bible. They accepted this and I enlisted in the Army on 14 August 1917. Thirteen of us were accepted at the recruiting station and given rail tickets to Fort Logan, Colorado, where those who were accepted were sworn into the regular U. S. Army. My serial number was 15577.
In choosing the branch of the Army in which to serve, the old sergeant advised that the Ambulance Service was the quickest way to get to France because the French were begging for ambulance services. I followed his advice and was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, for training and trench casualty retrieval and ambulance operations.
To learn more about Frank Woodruff Buckles or donate to his legacy, visit http://frankbuckles.org/
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