White House honors last living American World War I veteran

NBC/KSBY photo

Friday, March 7, 2008Reported by: Joe Vignolo, John Yang, NBC News


He’s the last of a dying breed in this country: a man whose story deserves our attention, respect and thanks.

He is the last known living American veteran of World War I. His name is Frank Buckles, and Thursday was his day at the White House.

Frank Buckles had an appointment Thursday in the White House West Wing, which didn’t even exist when he was born 107 years ago.

“Mr. Buckles has a vivid recollection of historic times,” said President Bush of Buckles.

Since last month, Buckles has been the only living U.S. Veteran of World War I, the last of nearly 5 million “Doughboys.”

“Well, I knew it would happen to somebody. I didn’t think it was going to be me,” said Buckles.

He was born in rural Missouri in 1901, the beginning of the 20th century. He lied about his age to enlist in the army when he was 15.

“I knew it was important, and probably, as a young boy, the thought of adventure,” said Buckles.

But he arrived in France just as the guns went silent, missing the war.

Years later, working for a steamship line in the Philippines, another war found him. The Japanese invaded at the start of World War II, and Buckles spent three and half years as a prisoner, eating from a tin cup.

“In Manila, in the last year of the war, I would get three-quarters of a cupful of mush, lucky to have some beans,” said Buckles of his imprisonment.

Today, he lives on the 330 acre West Virginia cattle farm he bought in 1954. He does 50 situps a day and only stopped driving a tractor five years ago.

“I was driving my car for exercise and to appointments when I was 102,” said Buckles.

Buckles is a piece of living, breathing history, the last living reminder of the “War to End All Wars.”



2 Responses to White House honors last living American World War I veteran

  1. coopbsure says:

    This triple-digit hero still does 50 sit-ups a day! WOW!! I salute his service to our country, his longevity, and his amazing strength and independence.

  2. StarCMC says:

    Wow — what a true hero!

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