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The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

Last man standing

Editor's note: NBC's Bob Faw introduces you to Frank Buckles tonight on the Memorial Day edition of NBC Nightly News [VIDEO LINK]. You can hear more from Buckles in his own words by clicking here to watch a video produced by NBC's Andy Gross and editor Ed Eaves.

070523_frankcloseup_hmed_1230pWhen you are with 106-year-old Frank Buckles, you are in the presence of the 20th century. You are also sitting with the last remaining veteran of World War I who served overseas. It is this fact that afforded me the opportunity to spend a day with Buckles on his postcard perfect farm in West Virginia while preparing tonight's story with correspondent Bob Faw for this Memorial Day edition  of Nightly News. When asked if he ever thought that he'd be the last survivor among the 4 million men who fought in the Great War for the United States, he just chuckles and shakes his head. You get that a lot from Frank; bemused grace from a life that touched on many of the seminal moments of the last century. You see it all just sitting with him in his memorabilia-crammed study. Here are just some of his historical highlights: Watched Jesse Owens run and saw Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, was a POW of the Japanese for 39 months in WWII in the notorious Los Banos internment camp; and was rescued in a daring raid by the 11th Airborne Division. "I didn't ask for all of it, it just happened that way," Frank says of his remarkable life.

Photo caption: Frank Buckles on his porch in West Virginia. The red ribbon he's wearing is the Legion of Honor, France's highest military award, given to him for his service in France during WWI. Photo by David DeJonge of DeJonge Studio.

Born on his father's farm in Missouri in 1901 during the presidency of William McKinley, young Frank had a thirst for history. He was particularly interested in the exploits of Gen. John Joseph Pershing and tales from the Spanish-American War. When the war in Europe broke out, Buckles scoured the newspapers, trying to follow the action thousands of miles away. Lying about his age, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at 15. "If anybody asked how old I was, I told them it wasn't any of their damn business," he laughed. Desperate to get overseas before the fighting ended, Buckles signed up for duty with the ambulance corps, a branch that was short of men. He sailed for Europe in 1917 aboard the RMS Caparthia, a ship that earned fame five years earlier when it answered the distress calls of the Titanic and sailed full-steam through the night to rescue the stunned survivors.

Buckles remained in England for the next several months, only making it to France once the war was winding down. Later, when he had returned stateside, he had the chance to meet and chat with his boyhood hero and wartime commander, Pershing. The general, a known stickler for military appearance, noticed that Buckles was holding gloves in his hand. "What the hell was that corporal carrying gloves for in his hand? That is only reserved for the cavalry," said Pershing. But did Buckles apologize? "No," he laughs, his eyes twinkling at the long-ago memory of standing up to his hero.

Buckles is in fine shape for being one of the few remaining McKinley-era babies. He credits it to exercise and hard work.  Pointing out a giant charcoal-colored leather medicine ball sitting on the top shelf in his study, Buckles told me, "I got that in Germany in 1932. They don't make them like that anymore!"

No sir, they sure don't, and they don't make them like Frank Buckles anymore either.

Special thanks to my editor, Ed Eaves, camera crew Jim Long and Bill Gebhardt and NBC News Associate Elizabeth Bacelar.

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COMMENTS

I had written Mr. Buckles a few months ago asking him for his autograph. I had given up on getting one thinking that because of his age he couldn't sign one for me. Well Today I got my card back signed along with Mr. Buckles story of having been in WWI. He is truly a gentleman and I'm glad he's still around to represent WWI vets

I had the true pleasure of meeting Mr. Buckles after the Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C. in May 2007. He is a very gracious man and a true American Hero. Thanks to Brian Williams and NBC for focusing their attention on Mr. Buckles!

Dear Folks: As a student of WW1 and an admirer of American heroes, I would love to have an autographed photo of Mr. Buckles. I would be glad to donate any ammount specified to any charity/organization identified by Mr. Buckles in return for such. Thanks.

As a former United States Marine, I try and find every opportunity to thank those that have served our Country. This is a truly remarkable man, one who has a lot offer the current generation. Thank you Mr. Buckles.

Thanks NBC for airing this piece (and Jim Long too).

This was a wonderful story. Thanks for bringing Mr. Buckles to our attention. And thanks to NBC cameraman Jim Long for giving a heads-up on Twitter to tune in for this special report.

Editor's note: We have received a lot of requests for Mr. Buckles' contact information from many readers of this blog. Please share your comments, wishes and kind words for Mr. Buckles here and we will forward that information to him. Thank you all for your interest in Mr. Buckles' amazing story.

Lovely and engaging story. I thoroughly enjoyed watching! Thanks for letting me know about it NMJ!

In response to Dale of Monroe, NC, our living World War I vets are Frank Buckles of West Virginia (the last one to serve overseas), Russell Coffey of Ohio; and Harry Landis of Florida

Dale, our living World War I vets are Frank Buckles of West Virginia (the last one to serve overseas), Russell Coffey of Ohio; and Harry Landis of Florida.

This was a great story but, I have one question. You said three survivors of WWI are still alive. Who are the other 2?

I am so impressed. This gentleman lives in my home state. Three Cheers for WV! We are a hale and hardy bunch. However I also have a Mother-in-Law who just turned 104 in Florida recently. Can't resist asking....Where in West Virginia does Mr. Buckles live. My congratulations and thanks to him.

Is it possible to get Frank Buckles' address to send a card?

Mr.Buckles is a truly remarkble man. Having experienced and seen all these events in his long lifetime. When he mentioned enlisting in the Army and then signing up for the ambulance corps it made me think of my grandfather who was in the ambulance corps too. My mother has a long picture of her father with the men from his ambulance corps. It is great to have him still with us to share his experiences and to remind us of his sacrifices and service to our country. May we all honor men such as Mr.Buckles and all the fine and brave soldiers this Memorial Day. Peace to all!

Being a lover of history, I am in awe of Mr. Buckles' staying power and the stories he can tell. On this Memorial Day, I will pause to remember the men he served with in WWI and the sacrifices they made for our country.

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