- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2009

WASHINGTON | The only living American-born veteran of World War I, now 108, visited Capitol Hill to lend his support for a World War I memorial on Washington’s National Mall.

Ninety years after surviving World War I and 60 years after enduring a Japanese prisoner of war camp, Frank Woodruff Buckles on Thursday attended a Senate hearing on legislation, named in his honor, to finally build a Washington memorial to the Great War.

“An excellent idea,” Buckles told a panel of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Buckles is one of just a few remaining World War I survivors. British-born Claude Choules of Australia, who served in the Royal Navy, is 108.

The last known survivor of trench warfare on World War I’s Western Front, British veteran Harry Patch, died in England in July at age 111. He began talking about his experience of trench warfare only in his last years, having shared nothing with his family.

At least 8.5 million soldiers are believed to have perished in the 1914-18 war.

Before the hearing, Buckles, wearing a ribbon commemorating his service, was greeted and shook hands with a procession of senators, followed by a group of high school students serving as Senate pages.

Buckles, born in 1901, talked his way into the Army at age 16. He drove ambulances and motorcycles and helped return prisoners of war to Germany after the armistice. He was working as a civilian for an American shipping company when he was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942 and spent three years in a prison camp.

His daughter Susannah Buckles Flanagan, who lives with him on a farm in Charles Town, West Virginia, said her father, who uses a wheelchair, now has difficulty hearing but still enjoys reading and exercise every day.

The centenarian is lending his name to legislation that would rededicate a monument now honoring Washington’s World War I veterans as a memorial for the more than 4 million Americans who served in the war. The Mall already has memorials honoring veterans of World War II and the conflicts in Vietnam and Korea.

The legislation has competition: Missouri lawmakers are promoting a measure that has passed the House that would designate Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., as the National World War I Memorial. Gen. John Pershing and four Allied military leaders attended the dedication of that 217-foot (66-meter) structure in 1921.

The National World War I Museum, designated by Congress as the war’s official museum, opened at Liberty Memorial in 2006.

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The National Mall memorial bill is S. 2097. The Missouri memorial bill is S. 760 and H.R. 1849.

On the Net:

Congress: https://thomas.loc.gov

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