|JUNE/JULY/AUGUST 2007 – NO. 16|
World War I
"I signed up because there was a war on — I wasn't crazy about our problems, with the war in Mexico and what was going on. Camp Clark was about ten miles from where I lived. I could read the newspapers — no mystery there.
"I was posted out in 1917. Went over on the Carpathia, the ship that rescued the Titanic, to Glasgow, Scotland, then to Winchester, England and eventually secured transportation across the channel to France. There was a unit in Winchester at a camp hospital. They outranked us, and they left and we stayed in Winchester. Afterwards, I went to France. There, I drove a motorcycle, then a car. I wasn't in the trenches — I was working in a hospital, but also drove an ambulance. What I did wasn't very impressive to me at the time, but now that I read about it ….
"After the war, I went to business school, took a course in typewriting, then took a train to Toronto, spent a couple years in Canada, then to New York City for a couple of years, where I was a member of the 7th Regiment in New York, one of the organizations I still belong to. I was on 42nd Street, across from the Library. I was in the steamship business and also went to Europe again, but decided to spend more time in South America, where I went for 5 or 6 years. I had a number of assignments. When the war started in Europe and World War II came along, I had two job opportunities, one to Buenos Aires and one to the Philippines. I accepted the second one, which I considered a good job. Then the Japanese invaded the Philippines and I was held in a camp for about three and a half years. Thousands of people died. We were rescued by the 11th Airborne on the 23rd of February, 1945.
"I couldn't have done all the things I had to do if I were married at the time. Your obligation is to the person you're married to. When the war was over, I came back to San Francisco and was offered a job to go to Brazil. I speak Spanish but I made a decision to quit wandering around the world and settle down and came home to West Virginia, where my ancestor Robert Buckles settled with 15 other families in 1732.
"I operated a 330-acre farm. We have beef cattle, about 250 head. It's a self-sufficient operation, though I'm not doing as much at the age of 106.
"I know something about longevity. In my life I've met people much older than me — but being a veteran means to me that someone has to represent the WWI veterans. I realized that I would be among the last survivors, but I didn't think I'd be one of three. I figured someone else would have that job.
"I have received very many letters from people in various parts of the world. Yesterday, I had two letters from Germany, from two German veterans from WWI, still living.
"I think WWI was — the more I read, the more I realize how important it was, particularly the events leading up to it.
"I don't mind people asking about it all, as long as they're interested in WWI."