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Former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole applauds as her husband, former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole is recognized by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during his keynote address at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, May 24, 2014. © Glenn Fawcett, DOD

Bob Dole, GOP Senator, Presidential Nominee and Decorated WWII Veteran, Dies at 98

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, a wounded World War II veteran who represented Kansas in the House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the Senate from 1969 to 1996, died yesterday. He was 98

Published on December 06, 2021

Dole, who served as the Senate’s Republican leader from 1985 to 1996, was the last World War II veteran to have been a presidential nominee of a major party. He was the Republican candidate in the 1996 presidential election, and his ticket lost to incumbent President Bill Clinton. He also was the Republican vice presidential nominee in the 1976 election, in which President Jimmy Carter defeated President Gerald Ford.

Dole is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, to whom he’s been married for 46 years. The senator’s widow served as the transportation and labor secretary and went on to head the Red Cross.

“He was so bashful. It was the third call before he asked me out,” Elizabeth Dole said in a February 2019 NBC interview. “I really liked that. I loved his compassionate heart. He loved to feel that each day he could make a difference for at least one person in need. And I loved that he had such a great sense of humor.”

Dole grew up in Russell, Kansas, and was attending college at the University of Kansas when World War II broke out. In 1942, he enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps, and in 1944 was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the 10th Mountain Division.

He was seriously injured in combat near Castel d’Aiano in the Apennine Mountains southwest of Bologna, Italy, by German machine-gun fire. He was hit in his upper back and right arm, and he fought through a long recovery at Percy Jones Army Hospital, now named the Dole-Inouye Federal Center.

Dole received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with “V” device for his attempt to assist a downed radioman during his service. The injuries left him with limited mobility in his right arm and numbness in his left arm. He received an honorary promotion to Army colonel in a May 2019 ceremony held at the World War II Memorial in the nation’s capital.

In his memoir, titled “A Soldier’s Story,” Dole wrote that he and his fellow World War II veterans were not unique in their service to the nation.

“It’s said often that my generation is the greatest generation,” he wrote. “That’s not a title we claimed for ourselves. Truth be told, we were ordinary Americans fated to confront extraordinary tests. Every generation of young men and women who dare to face the realities of war — fighting for freedom, defending our country, with a willingness to lay their lives on the line — is the greatest generation.”

After leaving public life, Dole worked at a Washington law firm and became a television spokesman for commercial products and a political commentator. He also led the Federal City Council, a group of business, civic and education leaders interested in economic development in Washington.

He served as the national chairman for the World War II Memorial campaign to raise enough money for the national memorial, and he also attended and advocated at events for veterans and people with disabilities.

Shannon Collins, DOD News
Associate Writer