February 14, 2008
National Archives Marks World War I Veteran’s 107th Birthday
Archivists present last living WWI veteran with a copy of his military file
Washington, DC…The National Archives celebrated the 107th birthday of the nation’s last living World War I veteran, Mr. Frank Woodruff Buckles, this week. To honor Mr. Buckles -- and by extension all of the men and women who served -- National Archives archivists Mitch Yockelson and Richard Boylan visited with Mr. Buckles at his home in West Virginia and presented him with a copy of his military service record.
Frank Woodruff Buckles was born in Harrison County, Missouri, on February 1, 1901. He enlisted in the US Army in 1917, at the age of 16 (he said he was 18). During the war, he was stationed in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France. He served as an ambulance driver, and after the Armistice was signed in 1918, he escorted prisoners of war back to Germany. Following the war, he was stationed in Germany, and he was discharged from service in 1920 having achieved the rank of corporal.
In the Second World War, Mr. Buckles was a civilian working for the White Star steamship line and was in Manila on business in December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was captured by the Japanese and spent over three years as a POW at the city's University of Santo Tomas.
The archivists located records relating to much of Mr. Buckles’ service in Europe. The National Archives photo lab then scanned and made prints of nearly three dozen documents that comprise his military file. His file includes his troop ship manifest, personnel rosters, and a history of Base Hospital 35 in Winchester, England, where Mr. Buckles spent part of his military career as a driver.
More than 4,700,000 men and women served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I. Of that number, roughly 2,000,000 served on foreign soil. Today, Mr. Buckles is the only living veteran. Ninety years after the end of World War I, Mr. Buckles recalled his service and said he was honored to be “the last known American veteran.” He pondered how World War I will be remembered when there are no surviving veterans.
Among the vast holdings of the National Archives are the official historical records relating to the American participation during World War I. Such records are housed at the National Archives in Washington, DC, College Park, Maryland, and the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Among the holdings are several million pages of unit files and personnel records, and close to a million maps, photographs, motion pictures and posters. For more information, see Archivist Mitch Yockelson’s article entitled: “They Answered the Call: Military Service in the United States Army during World War I, 1917-1919.”