Tuesday, May 30, 2006

WWI soldier, at 110, among last survivors of an era.

Today's Boston Globe has a story on Antonio Pierro, a Swampscott, Massachusetts resident who fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in the closing months of World War I. Still spry at 110, Pierro has vivid memories of combat experiences that took place nearly ninety years ago. As the Globe reports, Pierro is part of a small and rapidly vanishing brotherhood:
A U.S. Army private in the 320th Field Artillery Regiment of the 82nd Division in France in 1918, Pierro is one of about two dozen still living of the 4.8 million who served in the U.S. military during World War I, and one of a handful of living U.S. veterans who survived the battlefields of the Western Front.

Two other World War I veterans living in New England, Russell Buchanan of Watertown and Samuel Goldberg of Greenville, R.I., both 106 years old, served in the United States during the war. Buchanan also is a veteran of World War II.

"They're the last of a breed, and of an era," said Chris Scheer of the Veterans Affairs Administration in Washington, who tracks U.S. veterans of World War I.

Scheer's list of 18 includes Pierro, Buchanan, and Goldberg.

He said it is impossible to know how many are still alive.

"Last year we were pretty sure we had at least 50, and this year we're guessing that we're down to about 25," said Scheer, who adds that seven receive compensation pension benefits.
Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed that I have a great interest in people like Antonio Pierro. One reason for this is that I enjoy stories and love storytellers, especially those who excel in recreating lost worlds. Another reason for my interest is my belief that that events remain current as long as individuals who experienced them firsthand remain alive. In a sense, long-ago events become part of history only when the last person who took part in them passes away. If our consciousness of the past is not to be lost, we must take the time to listen to people like Antonio Pierro and record their stories. Though I'm still very young, I can recall a time when World War I veterans were still numerous enough that some would march (or more often ride) in local Independence Day parades, and I have vivid memories of a speech that a ninety year-old veteran of the Great War gave at a Memorial Day assembly at my junior high school. Experiences like these have given me an appreciation of the reality of World War I, an appreciation that young people born as little as ten years after me won't possess in quite the same way. As the First World War quickly recedes from the consciousness of the living, I hope we take the steps to preserve the recollections of that war's survivors. Historians will be telling and retelling stories about the past until the end of time, but even they have but one opportunity to record the data that provides the raw material of historiography. I hope that we are all up to the task. AMDG.


At May 31, 2006 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello - here are two stories - not in the 110-year-old category, but also of interest for "Interesting People":



Both are Jesuits!!

God bless,


At June 01, 2006 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello again!

Here is a story of a priest who is 109 years old!

Perhaps you can find someone to translate the article.


God bless,



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