Last American World War I Veteran Served Briefly in New York National Guard
March 14, 2011
LATHAM, NY --Frank Buckles, the last American World War I veteran who died at age 110 and will be buried Tuesday, March 15 in Arlington National Cemetery, spent a year serving in the New York National Guard in the 1920s.
Records kept in the New York State Archives reveal that Buckles, who lied about his age to join the Army in 1917, belonged to Company C of the Seventh Regiment of the New York National Guard from September 1922 to September 1923 during the time that he lived in New York City. The unit was based at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City.
He left the Guard, according to muster roll for the company, for business reasons.
In a 2001 interview conducted by the Library of Congress Veteran's History Project, Buckles said that he left the National Guard because he went to work for the Fumess Bermuda Line, a shipping company.
Buckles told the 2001 interviewer that he joined the National Guard because friends told him it would be a good way to get to know people in New York. Originally he thought about joining the 69th Infantry, but then his friends said there were too many Irish in that unit and he should join the 7th Regiment instead, because it was one of the better regiments.
"He says we'll get into the Seventh Regiment, that's really the top one, one of the top ones. And he made some telephone calls, and I received a letter and I was in, " Buckles told the interviewer. "That was one of my contacts and I believe they gave you ... I might have been paid a dollar and a half, it might be two dollars and a half, for each attendance you made."
The Seventh Regiment was known as the "Silk Stocking Regiment" because many of the members came from many of New York's prominent families. The historical lineage of the Seventh Regiment lives on in the 26-member 53rd Army Liaison Team which still trains at the Park Avenue Armory. The unit deployed to Iraq in 2005 and in 2009.
Buckles, who died on February 28, joined the Army in August 1917 when he was 16 by lying and saying that he was 18-years old. He served as an ambulance driver in England and France. He never saw combat but finished the war escorting German prisoners of war back home.
After returning from World War I, he worked in the shipping industry in Toronto and then moved to New York City to try his hand at business, where he joined the 7th Regiment.
During World War II Buckles was interred in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines. He was working in the Philippines as a representative for the American-Hawaiian Line when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 8, 1941. He spent more than three years in the Los Banos prison camp before he was rescued with other inmates in a raid conducted by the 11th Airborne Division on February 23, 1945.
The Park Avenue Armory where Frank Buckles drilled in 1922 and 1923 is now owned by the Park Avenue, a private non-profit arts organization.
The New York State Archives identifies, preserves, and makes available to the public, to private institutions, and to the people of the Empire State and the United States, more than 200 million records of New York's colonial and state government that date back to 1630.
The Archives is a program of the State Education Department, governed by the Regents of the University of the State of New York. The Archives has a staff of more than seventy. The Archives' central storage and research facility is located in the Cultural Education Center at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.