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US’s oldest WW2 veteran Lawrence Brooks dies at 112

Lawrence Brooks, the oldest American World War II veteran. (The National WWII Museum/TNS)
January 05, 2022

Lawrence Brooks, the United States’ oldest veteran of World War II passed away on Wednesday at 112 years of age.

Actor Gary Sinise, who is an avid advocate for U.S. military veterans, tweeted, “An American hero passed away this morning. Lawrence Brooks, the oldest living WWII vet at 112 years old. Here we are at National WWII Museum in New Orleans when he was 106 years old. He certainly had an incredible long life. God bless you sir. An honor to know you. Rest In Peace.”

Brooks celebrated his 112th birthday in September. National World War II Museum celebrated Brook’s birthday with a Jeep parade and live performance from the museum’s vocal trio, The Victory Belles. Other New Orleans musicians and live performers were also in attendance and local residents joined in the parade, which drove by his home.

Brooks’ daughter and caregiver, Vanessa Brooks, told Military Times that her father’s health had deteriorated in recent months and he had made frequent hospitals visits. Despite his age and failing health, he had still been alert and was able to enjoy the holidays and watch the New Orleans Saints play.

Brooks was born in Norwood, La., in 1909 and was drafted into the Army in 1940. Brooks, a black man, served as a private in the Army’s primarily black 91st Engineer Battalion, which saw service in New Guinea and the Philippines and was tasked with building bridges, roads and airstrips during the war.

In an oral history shared with the National World War II Museum, Brooks described an experience during the war in which an engine went out while he was flying onboard a C-47 transport plane.

Brooks described dumping the load of barbed wire the plane was carrying to lighten its load before making his way to the pilot’s cockpit. Brooks said the plane only had two parachutes so if they had to jump, he planned to hang on to one of them.

“We made it though,” Brooks said. “We had a big laugh about that.”

The Gary Sinise Foundation released a video honoring Brooks for his 111th birthday in 2020.

“We are thrilled to honor Lawrence Brooks who recently celebrated his 111th birthday, becoming America’s oldest living WWII veteran. Lawrence served from 1940-1945 with the 91st Engineer Battalion, in both New Guinea and the Philippines,” the foundation tweeted.

Tributes to Brooks and condolences to his family continued to pour in on Wednesday.

“The National WWII Museum is deeply saddened by the loss of beloved WWII veteran Mr. Lawrence Brooks, who passed away this morning. At 112 years old, he was the oldest surviving WWII veteran in the country,” the National World War II Museum tweeted.

“More than that, he was a dear friend, who celebrated his birthday with us every year starting in 2014, when he was just a spry 105-year-old. His consistent advice when asked for the secret behind his longevity was, ‘Serve God, and be nice to people,'” the museum added. “We are feeling his loss heavily today at the Museum, and we offer our condolences to his daughter Vanessa and his family. Learn more about Mr. Brooks’ life and WWII service.”

The Fisher House Foundation, which provides comfort homes for veteran and military families to stay in while a loved one is in the hospital, also paid tribute to Brooks. “We are saddened to learn that an American hero passed away this morning. Lawrence Brooks, the oldest living WWII vet at 112 years old. He was drafted in 1940, he built roads, bridges, and airstrips with his brothers in the 91st Engineer Battalion.”