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Col. Michael Buckley Jr.

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Col. Michael Buckley Jr died on August 17, 2006 at the Mercy Care Center in Oakland at the age of 104. At the time of death he was the oldest living graduate of West Point. He was also the first American prisoner of war in World War II.

He was born in Bisbee, Arizona Territory, on May 17, 1902, the son of Michael and Barbara Lally Buckley. The family lived in Coalinga where he graduated from Coalinga High School in 1919. He then entered the United States Military Academy where he lettered in baseball, boxing, and soccer. Upon graduation in 1923 he was commissioned in the Field Artillery of the United States Army.

In the fall of 1941 the then Major Buckley was sent to Egypt as an observer with the British forces fighting the combined German and Italian army under General Erwin Rommell. He was with the 5th South African Brigade advancing toward Tobruk when Rommel's panzer forces overran their position on Nov. 23. Buckley was captured along with the entire Brigade staff. As an unarmed noncombatant, he should have been released. But after Pearl Harbor he was interned in Italy until freed by a prisoner exchange in May 1942. He spent most of the war on the army planning staff of General Lesley McNair in Washington, D.C. and then served in the occupation of Japan.

In 1953 Col. Buckley became Professor of Military Science and Tactics for the ROTC program at Santa Clara University. Following his retirement in 1954 he taught mathematics at Santa Clara until 1968. For over thirty years, he and his wife, the former Eleanor Fletcher, lived in Santa Cruz where they belonged to the Pasatiempo Golf Club and were members of Holy Cross parish. They were married for seventy-three years until her death in 1999. He was also predeceased by four of their six children: Barbara Brown, Patricia Pope, Fletcher, and George Edward. His survivors include two sons, Fr. Michael Buckley, S.J. of Santa Clara University, and Fr. Thomas Buckley, S.J. of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, a sister, Sr. Marie Barbara, S.N.D. of Belmont, a son-in-law John N. Pope of San Jose, a daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Buckley of New Jersey, twelve grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren.

A Mass of the Resurrection will be said at Santa Clara Mission Church at 10a.m. on Friday, August 25, followed by burial at Santa Clara Mission Cemetery. Instead of flowers, contributions may be made to student scholarships for the Dept. of Mathematics and Computer Science at Santa Clara University or to Mercy Residence and Care Center in Oakland.

Lima Family Santa Clara Mortuary assisting the family.


Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Aug. 23, 2006
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