Last Surviving American WWI Veteran Dies

Monday, February 28th 2011, 9:21 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

CHARLES TOWN, WEST VIRGINIA -- America's last surviving World War I veteran, a real-life hero raised in Oklahoma, has died.

Frank Buckles was born in Missouri in 1901, but was raised in Oklahoma. He passed away Monday morning at the age of 110.

He's been called "the humble patriot". Frank Buckles outlived every other American, all 4.7 million, who served in World War I.

He died Monday morning of natural causes at his home in Charles Town, West Virginia.

Buckles was born in northwestern Missouri in 1901. When he was 15 he moved to Oakwood, Oklahoma, in Dewey County, 30 miles north of Weatherford. Buckles called Oakwood a charming little frontier town.

He worked in the town bank while going to high school. Then World War I broke out and Buckles says he began seeing patriotic posters in the post office.

Buckles visited a string of military recruiters in Oklahoma and Kansas but he was only 16 years old. He eventually convinced a recruiter in Oklahoma City that he was 18 and ready fight in the war.

"An old sergeant told me that the quickest way to get to France was to go in the ambulance corp," he said.

Buckles served in England and France, working mainly as a driver and a warehouse clerk.

After the war, he returned to Oklahoma; then moved to Canada, where he worked a series of jobs before heading for New York City.

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

Buckles had devoted the last years of his life to campaigning for greater recognition for his fellow World War I veterans.

He spent his time prodding politicians to support a national memorial in Washington. Buckles received fan mail everyday and had enough birthday cards to fill several bushel baskets. He was man devoted to his country, wore the red, white, and blue with pride, and will forever hold place in history.

Only two other World War I veterans are still alive. Both men served for Great Britain.

Plans are being worked out to allow Buckles' remains to lie in repose in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.