Page last updated at 02:23 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

US veteran, 108, fights for WWI memorial

Frank Buckles in Capitol Hill
Frank Buckles, 108, has lent his name to the bill

The last surviving US veteran of World War I has urged members of Congress to rededicate a Washington monument to the memory of his fellow combatants.

Frank Buckles, 108, said the US capital needed a symbol to honour all those who fought in the Great War.

A bill, named after Mr Buckles, proposes to rededicate an existing memorial on the National Mall in honour of all Americans who fought in WWI.

More than 100,000 Americans lost their lives during the campaign.

Mr Buckles, who travelled to Capitol Hill from his home in West Virginia, told a panel of senators it was "an excellent idea".

The official title of the bill is the Frank Buckles World War I Memorial Act.

It aims to rededicate the District of Columbia War Memorial which currently only commemorates the citizens of the District of Columbia who served in WWI.

Alternative plans

However, the bill has its opponents.

Some Washington politicians object to a national takeover of a local monument.

And in Missouri, campaigners want to designate a memorial in Kansas City as the National World War I Memorial.

The 217ft (66m) monument was dedicated in 1921 by Gen John Pershing and four Allied military leaders.

Mr Buckles joined the US Army at the age of 16 - two years younger than the legal limit - and drove ambulances on the Western Front.

In World War II, he worked for a US shipping company in the Philippines and was captured by the Japanese, spending three years in a prison camp.

His daughter, Susannah Buckles Flanagan, said that although her father uses a wheelchair and has difficulty hearing, he still enjoys reading and daily exercise.

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