Pentagon honors last American veteran of WWI
Corporal, 107, joined in 1917
WASHINGTON - World War I veterans still have no national memorial. There has been no Hollywood blockbuster in recent years to bring their story to life. But they still have Frank Buckles.
More than 90 years after he fudged his age to join the Army, Corporal Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War I, came to the Pentagon yesterday to represent the more than two million "doughboys" who braved the trench warfare and gas attacks of the "The Great War."
"It is an honor to be here to represent the veterans of World War I. I thank you," the 107-year-old Buckles, of Charles Town, W.Va., told a packed auditorium. Buckles spoke softly but clearly, and shared stories - including a meeting with General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates unveiled portraits of Buckles and eight other veterans who were photographed over the past 18 months - but seven have since died, and the eighth served with Canadian forces.
At 16, Buckles sailed from Hoboken, N.J., in December 1917 on the HMS Carpathia, the ship that saved Titanic survivors five years earlier. He drove an ambulance in England and France and later guarded German prisoners.
After his service - for which he was paid $143.90, including a $60 bonus - he worked in shipping and became a cattle farmer in 1954. He still oversees the farm.
Now, Buckles is the last flesh-and-blood reminder of the 116,000 Americans who gave their lives to save Europe at the start of the 20th century.
"It is only when we pause and come face to face with the human beings who fight our wars - . . . everyday people who leave hearth and home to go far away off to war - only then are we reminded of the true cost of war," said Army Secretary Pete Geren.