Picture by David Beatson

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Last Surviving WWI Doughboy

Frank Woodruff Buckles

Image of Frank  Woodruff Buckles
Frank Woodruff Buckles [undated]
War: World War I, 1914-1920
Branch: Army
Unit: 1st Fort Riley Casual Detachment
Service Location: United States; England; France; Germany
Rank: Corporal
Place of Birth: Harrison County, MO

1901-1922 World War One…

Frank Buckles was born on the family farm in Harrison County, Missouri in 1901.

At the age of 15 he loaded the family horses onto a boxcar and traveled to Oakwood,

Oklahoma where he got a job as a banker, went to high school and lived by himself in

a hotel. In 1917 The United States entered World War I and propaganda posters began to

surface in this small town. Buckles, an adventurous spirit decided to enlist. After

several rejections he eluded a recruiter about his young age and enlisted at the age

of 16 in the United States Army. Training in Ft. Riley, Kansas. Buckles eventually

deployed from Hoboken, New Jersey on the Carpathia, the ship that rescued the only

survivors of the Titanic. On the journey Buckles discussed extensively the first hand

accounts of the crew about the tragedy of the Titanic. Buckles arrived in Scotland then

served as a motorcycle driver for dignitaries, an ambulance driver and prison guard in

England, France and Germany where he served for the American Expeditionary

Forces and assisted escorting German Prisoners back at the end of the war. Buckles

returned to the United States in 1920 as a corporal.

4,734,991 Americans served from 1917-1918 during World War One, the Great

War. 116,516 Americans died during and as a result of this war. For Frank the path

that fait would lead has brought a common American farm boy to have an uncommon

story and to be the lasting symbol of this war. Now, at the age of nearly 109 Frank

Woodruff Buckles is the last doughboy, and a legacy of American sacrifice. Franks

story encompasses a unique example that is deeply woven within the fabric of the

twentieth century American experience. Surely, his life story is one that will

profoundly transform all who view it.

His journey to age 16 is a movie in itself. When you combine the rest of his life

with it the lines of this story weave together to form an intricate and award winning

script. Destiny would assure that this adventuresome lifestyle would continue the

rest of his life sometimes by choice and sometimes by the luck of the draw.

America could not have requested a better ambassador for the World War One

generation. Frank Buckles is a statesmen, historian and well versed in global history

clearly demonstrating the power of freedom, survival and democracy. The historical

value, inspiration and power contained within it are sure to persuade, encourage

and transform the globe this influential story.

1922-1945- World War Two…

Spanning over a century Frank Buckles life experiences as a soldier during World

War I then his storybook life truly are unimaginable. After being an ambulance

driver and WWI soldier he was an assistant purser of the ship the Western World and

working for the American President Lines. His travels via steam ship eventually

brought him to Manila where he was captured by the Japanese as a civilian and

became a Prisoner of War in World War II. For 39 months Frank survived on a s

mall tin cup of beans, rice and worm filled mush until his rescue by the 11th

Airborne Division of the United States Army on 23 February 1945.

Frank and the other prisoners were slated for execution that same morning. To

this day he still has the cup and the memories of what occurred. The cup serves as an

inspirational reminder for Frank to keep fighting. After nearly starving to death and

witnessing the Japanese atrocities in the prison camp he chose a peaceful life and

settled in West Virginia where his family ancestry and roots began in the 1700’s as

an American Farmer. His cattle farm also dates back to the 1700’s and overlooks the

mountains of Antietam and Harpers Ferry where he worked the farm and drove the

family tractor until 102.

2006 and beyond becoming the last witness…

As the years progressed and the numbers have dwindled of World War
One Survivors Frank often reflects: “I knew I would be the one of the
last ones, but never expected to be the last”
. Frank has become the
central figure and icon for a National WWI Memorial in Washington DC where he is frequently swarmed by media when he arrives to speak or pay tribute to those who have sacrificed. Franks story is the embodiment
of America and a humanity project packed with historical value and
public interest.
Followed by millions through frequent coverage on the national and international networks Buckles story drives home the American century with a personal and intimate link for both young and
old of 100 years of American History.

Service History Note:
Veteran served as an ambulance driver. After the Armistice, Veteran was with a prisoner of war (POW) Escort company returning prisoners back to Germany. Veteran was also held for three years and two months as a Japanese POW during World War II (he was a civilian at this time traveling abroad with his shipping business).
Frank Buckles

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