Museum Displays Photos of Last Surviving World War I Vets
The Port Arthur Historical Society invites the public to the Museum of the Gulf Coast to view WWI: Final Survivors, a stunning exhibition of photographs taken by photojournalist David DeJonge. The exhibition will open with a FREE reception on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011 and will remain on view through Sept. 18, 2011. DeJonge will be the guest speaker for the opening event on Aug. 7. He will speak on the topic of Survivor Quest, his years-long project to locate, identify, interview and photograph the last surviving WWI veterans.
Over 130,000 miles of travel to every corner of the U.S. and England have created an unprecedented collection that captivates viewers and clearly illustrates what happened during WWI. The exhibition features thirty eight framed pictures, including thirteen portraits of the last survivors of World War I taken from 2006-2009 for the 90th Anniversary of WWI. These survivors are the last witnesses from the United States and England that served from 1914-1919.
Each portrait has an accompanying text story with exclusive interviews and reflections by the veterans. In most cases a vintage portrait of the survivor is also featured.
Beginning in 2006 International award winning photographer David DeJonge began traveling North America to document the last WWI survivors. The project was honored with an Oval Office visit and a high level unveiling in the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Upon the completion of the United States WWI survivors DeJonge then went to England and documented their last 3 survivors. The ages of all these subjects ranged from an incredible 105-112 with the oldest subject being Henry Allingham who is the last person to have flown in a Bi-plane during combat.
Sadly, all of the gallant veterans have since passed with Frank Woodruff Buckles being the last to perish at the age of 110 years. Buckles, who also survived being a civilian POW in the Philippines in World War II, died of natural causes at his home in Charles Town, West Virginia on Feb. 27, 2011. He was the last surviving North American WWI Veteran out of the 4,756,000 that served in the “Great War”.
Mr. Buckles was the inspiration for the traveling exhibition. He had been advocating for a national memorial honoring veterans of the Great War in Washington, D.C. and sat as Honorary Chairman of Survivor Quest, the organization headed by DeJonge which oversees the veteran project. It was Mr. Buckles who personally asked DeJonge to make the exhibition available to educational institutions across the country.
In a statement issued after Buckles’ death, daughter Susannah Buckles Flanagan said “My father was a humble and soft-spoken gentleman who did not seek honor or recognition for himself, but in the last few years of his life others began to seek his support to the cause of honoring the military veterans of World War I, which he was glad to do. He was invited to testify before Congress on this subject in 2009, and he was honored to do so. When he became the last living American veteran of World War I, he recognized his role as representative of all the service members who served, fought, and died in the Great War and felt that it was his duty to do so, just as strongly as he felt the call to enlist and help fight that war, with all the other American doughboys.”
The project has received numerous accolades and extensive coverage from every network and wire service including: CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC, VOA, NPR, UPI, Reuters, Pentagon Channel, Military Channel and Stars and Stripes. In addition to the White House and the Pentagon, the exhibition has been on view at such places as the Woodrow Wilson Home in Washington DC.
Those interested in attending the opening event on August 7 and hearing DeJonge speak should call in advance to reserve their seat at 409.982.7000. Group tours of the exhibition are available from August 8 to September 16. Groups of 10 or more may tour for $2 per person. However, tours must be scheduled in advance to receive the group rate.
In addition, the exhibition will inspire a FREE Veteran Appreciation Film Series on Saturday afternoons at 2:00 p.m. Select films represent the veteran’s perspective from several major wars in U.S. history, featuring a wide range in film genres including drama, action, satire and documentary – The film series schedule is as follows:
– Civil War August 13 – Glory (1989)
– WWI August 20 – Sergeant York (1941)
– WWII August 27 – Saving Private Ryan (1998)
– Korea September 3 – MASH (1970)
– Vietnam September 17 – Bob Hope’s Salute to the Troops: The Vietnam Years
Film attendees will enjoy complimentary popcorn and FREE admission to the temporary WWI exhibition as well as the Museum’s permanent exhibits.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast is owned and operated by the Port Arthur Historical Society in partnership with Lamar State College – Port Arthur and the City of Port Arthur. This project is made possible in part by grants from the Southeast Texas Arts Council, Humanities Texas and the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation. It is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. For more information about the Museum please visit or call 409.982.7000 or visit www.museumofthegulfcoast.org.