The National Centenarian
salutes our veterans who fought
The Great War "Over There."
World War I veteran, 107, campaigns for memorial
By Dave Montgomery | McClatchy Newspapers
September 9, 2008
Frank Buckles, 107
WASHINGTON — More than
nine decades after driving ambulances on the battlefields of Europe,
107-year-old Frank Woodruff Buckles is the nation's last known
survivor of World War I. Now he's also become the face of an
ambitious campaign to erect a national memorial honoring the 4.6
million Americans who endured "the war to end all wars.''
...Buckles was born in 1901 in
Harrison County, Mo. He lied about his age to enlist, telling a
skeptical recruiter that Missouri didn't keep birth records when he
was born. He was dispatched to England, then France, where he served
as an ambulance driver. After the armistice, he delivered German
POWs back to their home country.
Buckles spent the next 20 years as a merchant seaman before he was
entangled in another world war. He was working in the Philippines in
1941 and was captured by the Japanese shortly after the bombing of
Pearl Harbor. He spent the next three and a half years in Japanese
After World War II, he returned to
the United States, married and settled down on a 33-acre West
Virginia farm, where he still lives. His wife died in 1999.
Buckles said World War I faded from
his memory as he lived through the Roaring Twenties, the Great
Depression, the brutal experiences of World War II prison camps and
the decades of mind-boggling technological advances that have
accompanied him into a second century. But he said he'd started
recalling many of his World War I days now that he'd been asked to
participate in the movement to erect a memorial. ...
(excerpt; click for full article:
Photo: Pete Souza / Chicago Tribune / MCT
Lloyd Botimer, 104, served
at the front in the battle of Verdun, "one of the bloodiest
battles in history," tells Lloyd. "It is hard for people
today to understand, but at that time there was a real feeling
that we Americans were doing something good. We were making the
world safe for Democracy. Patriotism ran very high and you wanted
to be part of it."
PHOENIX, May 2, 1999 The Arizona Republic
has reported that Mr. Botimer, one of the oldest living World
War I veterans in the Phoenix metro area, died of pneumonia Friday
evening, April 30th.
His death came only two days after he received the French
Legion of Honor in front of nearly 100 fellow Camelback Rotary
Club members and U.S. and Arizona veterans organizations. The
honor is the highest bestowed by France to a civilian.
The Arizona Republic
Lloyd Botimer in his uniform.
The photo was taken in 1918.
After learning of his passing, Lynn Adler conveyed the following:
The fact that Lloyd achieved the earned distinction of receiving
the French Legion of Honor medal is significant. Lloyd's strong
will and spirit were exemplary to the end. Despite being ill,
Lloyd carried through with the planned ceremony because of shear
determination; he really wanted that medal!
It seems to us that he did not change. I vividly recall his
telling us in detail of his experience in the Battle of Verdun
at the edge of the Argonne Forest and how he was prepared to
go into battle with his troops rather then remain in safety behind
the lines, as his rank permitted. He was courageous and honest
and pure of spirit and I admired him so.
Basilio Imbergia, 102, emigrated from
Italy shortly before WWI began. Soon after, he was drafted and
sent to fight in France. He received the Military Order of The
Purple Heart after surviving the battle of the Argonne Forest.
"I can still remember the horrible sounds of the shells
exploding all around us and overhead," says Basilio. "Even
today, after all these years, if I hear a fork drop on the floor
I jump. Only 15 men in my company made it out alive."
Herb Kirk, 103, was a naval
aviator in WWI, who quit college to enlist and learn to fly.
"I wanted to be an Ace," recalls Herb, "it seemed
exciting. But before we left our flight school in Florida to
go overseas, half the men in my class had either been killed
or severely injured. It was really flying by the seat of our
In appreciation of their service
on French soil, the government of France is awarding the Chevalier
Cross of the Legion of Honor and a commemorative certificate
to all veterans and non-combat personnel who served in France
during World War I.
Many who were at the Front believe
they only survived because the Armistice was signed on the 11th
hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The French Ambassador
to Britain said it's a duty to remember these veterans. We believe
that's true for all of us.