T Nation

Last Surviving U.S. WWI Vet Dies


The last ever surviving U.S. veteran of World War I has died aged 110.

Frank Buckles, who lied about his age to get into uniform during the war, also survived being a civilian POW in the Philippines in World War II.

He died peacefully of natural causes on Sunday at his home in Charles Town having just hit the 110 milestone at the beginning of the month.

At the time he had been advocating for a national memorial honoring veterans of the Great War in Washington, D.C.

When asked what it felt like to be the last of his kind he said: 'I realized that somebody had to be, and it was me. Without a doubt I would do it all over again.'

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 only 16 and a half at the time.

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

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 on 20 December, 2007, at age 109, while Landis died on 4 February, 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, Washington, died in February 2010.
Milestone: Buckles celebrates his 110th birthday at the beginning of the month, he died peacefully in his sleep from natural causes

Buckles served in England and France, working mainly as a driver and a warehouse clerk. The fact he did not see combat did not diminish his service.

He said: 'Didn't I make every effort?'

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

He has previously spoken of his trouble getting into the military, saying: 'I went to the state fair up in Wichita, Kansas, and while there, went to the recruiting station for the Marine Corps.

'The nice Marine sergeant said I was too young when I gave my age as 18, said I had to be 21.'

He then returned a week later.

'I went back to the recruiting sergeant, and this time I was 21,' he said. '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 but he still did not quit.

In Oklahoma City, an Army captain demanded a birth certificate though Buckles told him: 'I said 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?" He said, "OK, we'll take you".

'I was never actually looking for adventure. It just came to me.'


Yeah, I saw this.

But I am damn near positive that he's NOT the last surviving war vet. My friend's neighbor (I have met him) was also in WWI and, to my knowledge, still alive and just fine. Loves his Judge Judy on the 60" screen his daughter bought him. And he golfs or something.

I will ask my friend...but I am positive he's still alive, so at least one more WWI war vet. I will try to report back.


Still a tragic event, these guys earned respect the old fashioned way.


Not to take anything away from Mr. Buckles, but how is this tragic?

Dude was 110 years old. Lived through crazy wars POW camps and 110 years of life. This isn't tragic. Awesome, perhaps, but not tragic.


I agree. What a full life. The tragedy would be if that life remained a secret, Hopefully he had a journal, or at least told his story many times to many people.


The Japanese prisoner of war (and civilian) camps made the German concentration camps look nice.

For whatever reason, people always talk about the German camps (which were certainly larger) or the USA internment of Japanese civilians, but never talk about the Japanese death camps or how they interned USA citizens there, including civilians.


By WWI you mean WWII? Or is your friends neighbor actually 112+ years old?


My friend's younger brother lied about their neighbor's age; the brother told me the guy was over 100 and was in WWI, but I asked my friend and he said no, WWII and the guy is just under 90. Though, he did lie to join the army. Not sure how old he was.

Good catch. I thought it'd be ridiculously improbably to meet a WWI vet.




Wrong war jackass.

Also, the internment of the Japanese was a huge fuckup on the part of the US government and a blemish on our history, but it was absolutely nothing in comparison to what was happening in Europe. You're really fucking ignorant.


I think he was commenting on how Mr. Buckles was a Civilian POW during WWII. The Japanese Camps were horrible, but I doubt they could truly compare to the millions that were killed in concentration camps.


You'd think someone who calls himself JEWbacca would know this.


Ahh, missed that part of the bio. I guess I'm the asshole.

His comment about the internment camps was still ridiculous though.


Who woulda thought, a Jew from Israel, not knowing about concentration camps during WWII. :smiley:


You do realise Jewbacca is a Jew from Israel right? No one is denying the atrocities that happened in Nazi concentration camps, but the fact is that what happened with those under Russia and Japan were equal if not worse than what happened under Germany. I think you're the jack ass.


I don't see how that matters in any way whatsoever. Here is my post simplified even further for you:

"Oh, I didn't realize the veteran in question had also been a civilian POW. makes sense that WWII would be brought up.

However, the comment about internment camps making concentration camps look "nice" was extremely ignorant."

Explain how this guy being a Jew from Israel has any fucking bearing on the above statements.



Maybe Jewbacca is in denial. Perhaps he's like those woman on the jury who judge the rapist on trial as innocent, as if denying rape ever occurs will somehow protect them from ever getting raped.


He said they made the German concentration camps look nice. I said: that's a stupid fucking thing to say. If you disagree with me I'd venture to say you're the jackass.


From the article "In 1941, while on business in the Philippines, Buckles was captured by the Japanese. He spent three and a half years in prison camps."

I would agree that:

(1) the internment of the Japanese was both an overreaction to the Japanese spies who hid among the innocent Japanese immigrants (although such spies did call in the strike to Pearl Harbor) and

(2) that the US internment of said immigrants was considerably more mild than the death camps the Germans ran and the Japanese ran.


I was talking about the Japanese death camps, such as they ran in the Philipeans, Korea, Japan, and China. The Japanese killed far more people than the Germans.


Nope, just ignorance on both of your parts of the death camps run by Japanese.

My statement has nothing to do with the camps run by the USA where Japanese were interrred.