TAMPA, Fla. — Harry Richard Landis, who enlisted in the Army in 1918 and was one of only two known surviving U.S. veterans of World War I, has died. He was 108.
Landis, who lived at a Sun City Center nursing home, died Monday, according to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.
The remaining U.S. veteran is Frank Buckles, 107, of Charles Town, W.Va., according the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, John Babcock of Spokane, Wash., 107, served in the Canadian army and is the last known Canadian veteran of the war.
Another World War I vet, Russell Coffey, died in December at 109. The last known German World War I veteran, Erich Kaestner, died on New Year's Day at 107.
Landis trained as a U.S. Army recruit for 60 days at the end of the war and never went overseas. But the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs counts him among the 4.7 million men and woman who served during the Great War.
The last time all known U.S. veterans of a war died was Sept. 10, 1992, when Spanish-American War veteran Nathan E. Cook passed away at age 106.
In an interview with The Associated Press in April in his Sun City Center apartment, Landis recalled that his time in the Student Army Training Corps involved a lot of marching.
‘I don’t remember too much about it’
"I don't remember too much about it," said Landis, who enlisted while in college in Missouri at age 18. "We went to school in the afternoon and drilled in the morning."
They often drilled in their street clothes.
"We got our uniforms a bit at a time. Got the whole uniform just before the war ended," Landis said. "Fortunately, we got our greatcoats first. It was very cold out there.
He told reporters in earlier interviews that he spent a lot of time cleaning up a makeshift sick ward and caring for recruits sickened by an influenza pandemic.
When asked whether he had wanted to get into the fight, Landis said, "No."
When the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, Landis recalled a final march with his unit.
"We went down through the girls college, marching down the street. We got down to the courthouse square and there was a wall around this courthouse. We got to the wall and (the drill instructor) didn't know what to do and we were hup, two, three, four, hup, two, three, four," Landis said, laughing at the memory. "Finally, we jumped up on the wall and kept going until we got to the courthouse — hup, two, three, four — and he said dismissed."
‘Why we were there, I couldn’t tell you’
He said he and some fellow recruits piled into a car to go to the next town.
"What we did there, why we were there, I couldn't tell you," Landis said.
He signed up to fight the Germans again in 1941, but at age 42 he was rejected as too old.
"I registered, but that's all there was to it," Landis said.
He was a manager at S.S. Kresge Co., which later became Kmart, in Niagara Falls, New York, and Dayton, Ohio. His fondest memory was taking golf vacations with three friends and their families, a tradition that ended more than five decades ago with the death of his best friend.
Landis retired to Florida's warmer climate in 1988 and lived in an assisted living center with his wife of 30 years, Eleanor.
His first wife, Eunice, died after 46 years of marriage. Landis had no children.
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.