How does one become the last American veteran of World War I? First, you have to start out young by enlisting, fraudulently, at the tender age of 16. Second, don’t die in the war. Third, continue to live for a really, really long time. This is precisely how Frank Buckles outlasted every single one of America’s 4.7 million or so World War I veterans. As the Washington Post writes:
Mr. Buckles said he was just a naive schoolboy chasing adventure when he enlisted Aug. 14, 1917, after the United States joined a war that had been raging for three years, with millions dead. “I knew what was happening in Europe, even though I was quite young,” he told a Washington Post reporter when he was 105. “And I thought, well, ‘I want to get over there and see what it’s about.”
Turns out it wasn’t a good time. As an ambulance driver, Buckles witnessed war’s carnage firsthand. After the war, he traveled the globe as a ship’s purser, and it was while working in a company’s office in Manila, Philippines, in 1941 that he was captured by the Japanese and sent to a civilian internment camp. He spent over three years there in squalid conditions before being liberated. After that, Buckles had experienced enough of the world and settled on a farm in
Virginia West Virginia, where he stayed until he died yesterday, at the age of 110. He’ll be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.