WWI veteran to celebrate 110th birthday today

January 31, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Frank Woodruff Buckles
File photo

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Frank Woodruff Buckles, Jefferson County’s most famous living citizen and the last surviving World War I doughboy, turns 110 years old Tuesday.

Buckles, who lives with his daughter, Susannah Buckles Flanagan, at Gap View, the family farm off old W.Va. 9, has been the subject of wide media and congressional attention in recent years.

In 2010, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., co-sponsored a bill to rededicate and restore a monument in Washington, D.C., honoring the 500 or so District of Columbia residents who served in World War I. Their bill calls for authorizing a new sculpture to make the monument a national memorial honoring all 4.7 million Americans who served in the 1914-18 conflict, not just those from the nation’s capital.

There are national memorials in Washington, honoring veterans from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, but none for World War I, said Jamie Corley, Capito’s spokesperson.

In 2008, Capito sponsored a bill to allow Buckles, upon his death, to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Corley said.

“Mr. Buckles represents the very best of this country — service, determination and patriotism. He has lived through some of the most historic events in American history, from the Great Depression to two world wars to the invention of the Internet,” Capito said Monday in a statement.

“Congresswoman Capito wishes Frank Buckles happy birthday and said West Virginia is honored to call him one of our own,” Corley said.

Neither Frank nor Susannah Buckles could be reached for comment Monday.

A story in the May 30, 2010, edition of Parade magazine on Buckles said he lied about his age in 1917 when he was 16 so he could enlist. The Army sent him to France, where he drove ambulances and motorcycles. After the armistice, he helped return German prisoners of war to their country.

In 1941, he was working in Manila for the American President Line, a shipping company. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines during World War II, Buckles was captured and spent 3 1/2 years in a prisoner-of-war camp before he was rescued by American forces when they retook the Island nation.

David DeJonge, a Michigan filmmaker, is producing a documentary on Buckles’ life titled “Pershing’s Last Patriot: The Story of Frank Woodruff Buckles, America’s Last Veteran of World War I.”

It will be narrated by actor Richard Thomas.

DeJonge said Monday that Buckles will spend Tuesday at home enjoying his birthday.

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