Articles

These were the last surviving veterans of every major American war through WWI

Earlier this week, the United States was reminded that veterans of World War II and the Korean War are passing away at a remarkable rate when Frank Levingston died at 110 years old. He was the oldest living WWII veteran but the median age of this era of vets is 90, and 430 of them die each day. The National WWII Museum estimated that there are only roughly 690,000 left of the 16 million who served.


(Source: VA.gov)

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It can't be easy to be the last of a dying generation, but someone has to be. World War II and Korea veterans have a little bit of time left, but not much. The last surviving World War I veteran died in 2011. Here's a look at who the last surviving veterans were for each American war and when they were laid to rest.

Lemuel Cook, Revolutionary War

Still wouldn't want to mess with the guy.

Cook was born in 1759, the only one on this list to be born a British subject. He was from Connecticut and enlisted in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons at age 16, seeing action at the Battle of Brandywine and Siege of Yorktown. He was also present at General Cornwallis' surrender during the Virginia Campaign. After being discharged in 1784, Cook would watch the beginning and end of the Civil War as a civilian. He died in 1866.

Hiram Cronk, War of 1812

Photography wasn't too shabby back then, I guess.

The last surviving veteran of "Mr. Madison's War," Cronk was born in 1800 in Upstate New York. He and other New York Volunteers fought in the defense of Sackett's Harbor, west of Watertown, which held a major shipyard during the War of 1812. He lived to be 105 years old, drawing a monthly pension of $97 from New York and the Federal government for his service ($1,443 in today's dollars).

Owen Thomas Edgar, Mexican-American War

Only photo I could find!

The Philadelphia native was a U.S. Navy sailor on the frigates Potomac, AlleghenyPennsylvania, and Experience. Born in 1831, he lived to be 98 years old, dying in 1929. After three years of service, he was only promoted once during his enlistment.

Albert Henry Woolson, Civil War – Union Army

Dapper fellow.

Woolson was born in Antwerp, New York in 1850. His father was wounded in the Union Army at the Battle of Shiloh. Woolson himself was enlisted as a drummer in the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment. His unit never saw action and Woolson spent the rest of his life as Vice Commander in Chief of the political action group, Grand Army of the Republic, fighting for the rights and views of Civil War veterans. He died in Duluth, Minnesota in 1956.

He survived Antietam. ANTIETAM.

The last combat veteran of the Union Army was James Hard of the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He fought at the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, and met Abraham Lincoln at a White House reception.

Pleasant Crump, Civil War – Confederate Army

Pretty much how you'd expect a Crump to look.

Born in Alabama in 1847, Crump and a buddy enlisted as privates in the 10th Alabama Infantry Regiment in November 1864. He fought at the Battle of Hatcher's Run and the siege of Petersburg before watching General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. After the surrender, Crump walked home to Alabama. He died in 1951 at age 104, the last confirmed survivor of the Confederate Army.

Frederick Fraske, Indian Wars

The only image I could find is his grave.

Fraske was an immigrant from the Kingdom of Prussia, now part of Germany. He came to the U.S. in 1877 with his family, settling in Chicago. At 21, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to the 17th Infantry in Wyoming. Although he spent his career preparing Fort D.A. Russell for an attack from the native tribes, the attack never came and he spent his three years of enlisted service and went home to Chicago. He died at age 101 in 1973.

Wilson ca. 1930

John Daw was born Hasteen-tsoh in 1870. He would grow up to become an enlisted U.S. Army tracker, looking for Apaches in New Mexico until 1894. He would return to the Navajo Nation in Arizona after leaving the service, dying in 1965 as the last surviving Navajo Tracker.

Jones Morgan, Spanish-American War

Morgan was a Buffalo Soldier who lived to be 113 years old. He enlisted in 1896 in the 9th Cavalry Regiment. He later maintained the horses of the Rough Riders and served as a camp cook on the war's Cuban front. Despite the controversy surrounding his claim (his enlistment papers burned in a fire in 1912), no one doubted Morgan, but he wasn't given recognition until 1992, the year before he died.

Nathan Cook, Boxer Rebellion & Philippine-American War

He looks like every great-great-grandpa ever.

Cook is probably the saltiest American sailor who ever lived. Enlisting in 1901 (age 15) after quitting his job at a Kansas City meat packing plant, he served in the Philippines, during the uprising after the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War ceded the Philippines to the U.S. Cook also saw action during the Boxer Rebellion in China and the fighting along the U.S.-Mexico border precipitated by Pancho Villa. He was promoted to warrant officer after 12 years of service. He continued to serve during World War I, commanding a sub chaser and sinking two U-boats. He was the XO of a transport ship during World War II and retired in 1942, after some 40 years of service. He died in 1992 at age 104.

Frank Buckles, World War I

Buckles always looked like he could still fight a war.

Yes, all the doughboys are gone now. The last was Frank Buckles of West Virginia who died in 2011. he enlisted in the Army at age 16 in 1917 to be and ambulance driver. he was turned down by the Marines because he was too small and by the Navy because he had flat feet. After the Armistice in 1918, he escorted German POWs back to Germany. He was discharged in 1919. He would work in shipping as a civilian and was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942 and spent the rest of the war in civilian prison camps.

Buckles spent his last days appealing to the American public to create a World War I memorial in Washington, DC. Buckles died at age 110, but his dream did not. The National World War I Memorial is set to be built where Pershing Park is today.

History

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor in his pajamas

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it's hot on the work site, it's important to stay cool. If it's hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army's aircraft on the ground.

Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol' martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A's fuselage.

Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

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