Frank Buckles, the last U.S. World War I veteran, has died, a spokesman for his family said Sunday. He was 110.
Buckles "died peacefully in his home of natural causes" early Sunday morning, the family said in a statement sent to CNN late Sunday by spokesman David DeJonge.
Buckles marked his 110th birthday on February 1, but his family had earlier told CNN he had slowed considerably since last fall, according his daughter Susannah Buckles Flanagan, who lives at the family home near Charles Town, West Virginia.
Buckles, who served as a U.S. Army ambulance driver in Europe during what became known as the "Great War," rose to the rank of corporal before the war ended. He came to prominence in recent years, in part because of the work of DeJonge, a Michigan portrait photographer who had undertaken a project to document the last surviving veterans of that war.
As the years continued, all but Buckles had passed away, leaving him the "last man standing" among U.S. troops who were called "The Doughboys."
DeJonge found himself the spokesman and advocate for Buckles in his mission to see to it that his comrades were honored with a monument on the National Mall, alongside memorials for veterans of World War II and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.
Buckles made history when he was asked to testify in Congress on the matter before a House committee on December 3, 2009.
"I have to," he told CNN when he came to Washington, as part of what he considered his responsibility to honor the memory of fellow-veterans.
Buckles, after World War I ended, took up a career as a ship's officer on merchant vessels. He was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II and held prisoner of war for more than three years before he was freed by U.S. troops.
Never saying much about his POW experience, Buckles instead wanted attention drawn to the plight of the D.C. War Memorial. During a visit to the run-down, neglected site a few years ago, he went past the nearby World War II memorial without stopping, even as younger veterans stopped and saluted the old soldier in his wheelchair as he went by.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Last US World War I vet dies.