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John H. Buckley: Exploring a Local WWI Hero’s Legacy in Colorado

Did you know that Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado was named for a Longmont resident?

John Harold Buckley (1895-1918) was born on July 8, 1895 in Longmont, Colorado. Buckley enlisted in the service and achieved the rank of 1st Lieutenant during World War I. He was in the 28th Squadron Pursuit Group, and on September 27, 1918, he was killed on the third day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. He and a fellow pilot, Lt. Kenneth Bell, were forming a patrol to cross enemy lines on a combat mission. Weather reports from that day say that it was rainy, with low clouds and poor visibility.

John H. Buckley posing with a plane in 1918
John H. Buckley posing with a plane in 1918

Two other pilots gave a statement that Lieutenants Bell and Buckley were seen flying towards one another at the same level in low clouds behind enemy lines, then both planes were seen diving, when one plane turned trying to avoid the other. These actions resulted in a mid-air collision shearing the left wings off each plane. The accident caused both planes to fall immediately in a vrille (French term for a bad spin or “death spiral”). Upon hitting the ground, both pilots were instantly killed.

Lt. John Buckley was posthumously awarded both a Purple Heart and a WWI Victory Medal in 2003. He is buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, a 130-acre cemetery just east of the French village of Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. The cemetery is about three hours northeast of Paris, and it serves as the final resting place of our largest dead military in Europe, a total of 14,246.

Here in Longmont, Buckley is also remembered. The American Legion Post 32 was named in honor of Lt. John Harold Buckley and the service he provided to his country.

All photos courtesy of the Longmont Museum & Cultural Center.

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