He was there for the real Armistice Day and he remembers his experiences with the Army during World War I well. Frank Buckles is Missouri’s last living World War I veteran and one of only three surviving veterans of The Great War.
In fact, he is the last living United States veteran who finished his basic training and went to France before the war’s end.
Buckles is 106 and lives on his farm in West Virginia. He was born near Bethany in northwest Missouri’s Harrison County. Later, he lived in southwest Missouri’s Vernon County for five years before going to Oklahoma. Buckles was 16 when he enlisted in the army after being rejected by the Marines and the Navy because of suspicions he was not yet 18. But he told the Army recruiter Missouri did not require a birth certificate when he was born and that the only written record was in a family Bible that he had no intention of taking to the recruiting office.
Buckles was told his best chance for a quick ticket to France was to become a member of the ambulance corps. He went to France on the steamship "Carpathia," the same ship that had rescued Titanic survivors five years earlier. After the Armistice on November 11, 1918, he stayed in Europe to escort German prisoners back to Germany. He was discharged in 1920, and decided to study business .
Buckles worked for several Steamship lines and was in Manila, the Philippines, when Japan attacked. He spent more than two years as a civilian prisoner of war before American troops returned and liberated the camp.
He attributes his long life to his lifetime appreciation of exercise—he drove his own car to his exercise classes until he was 102–and to a determination to live more than 100 years. "When you think you’re going to die, don’t," he advises.
(attached to this story is a 93-minutge interview with Frank Buckles done as part of the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project).