Bob Dole, a decorated World War II veteran, Republican presidential nominee, and public servant of more than four decades, died Dec. 5 at age 98, less than a year after announcing he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Dole, an Army veteran and Bronze Star recipient who served six years as an officer, devoted his entire professional and retired life to serving the country. He served in Congress for more than three decades, representing Kansas in the House of Representatives from 1960 until joining the Senate in 1969. Dole served there until 1996, resigning his seat and his majority leadership position that year during an unsuccessful White House bid.
“Senator Dole supported U.S. servicemembers and veterans during his political career, but also made it a mission later in life,” MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins said. “His regular appearances at the World War II Memorial, to greet his fellow comrades, were an inspiration. Senator Dole never stopped serving.”
Dole served as the national chairman for the World War II Memorial Campaign, which raised funds for the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. He was known for making appearances at the memorial, greeting veterans from around the country visiting the memorial through the nonprofit Honor Flight Network.
Dole’s service extended through his wife, Elizabeth, who in 2012 established the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to empower and support military caregivers and family members. The foundation formed a partnership with MOAA to produce a caregiver guide focused on the legal and financial needs of multiple generations of caregivers.
Dole’s Military Service
Dole had been taking classes and playing basketball, track, and football at the University of Kansas when he volunteered for the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1942.
He went on to became a second lieutenant with the acclaimed 10th Mountain Division. During an intense firefight against the Germans in Bologna, Italy, in April 1945, Dole suffered serious gunshot wounds from a German machine gun.
Dole was transported to the U.S. to recover. He overcame blood clots and a life-threatening infection. He underwent more than seven surgeries.
His injuries left him with limited mobility in his right arm and numbness in his left arm.
For his war service, Capt. Dole received two Purple Hearts. For his efforts to assist a downed radioman, he earned the Bronze Star with “V” Device.
He spent years undergoing rehabilitation at a military hospital.
In March 2019, the U.S. Congress unanimously passed a bill to promote Dole from a captain to a colonel. President Trump signed the bill into law the next month.
In his political career, Dole was known as a strong partisan debater and tough negotiator, while also excelling at forging bipartisan alliances to enact legislation, according to his Senate biography.
He demonstrated his ability to work with Democrats when he joined then-Sen. George McGovern to reform the federal food stamp program in 1977.
He served as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1981 to 1985 and the Republican floor leader from 1985 to 1996.