Louisiana’s Lawrence Brooks, Oldest U.S. World War II Veteran, has Died

America’s oldest Veteran of World War, Lawrence Brooks, died Wednesday at the age of 112.  Mr. Brooks was a supercentenarian, which is someone who has reached the age of 110.  

Brooks was born on September 12, 1909. He grew up in Norwood, Louisiana, and had 14 siblings. When he was an infant, the family moved to several cities closer to the Mississippi Delta, but was raised primarily in the small town of Stephenson, Mississippi.  He did not attend school because he was too far away from the nearest one, so he was taught at home.

Brooks was drafted into the army in 1940, when he was 31. At the time, he was employed at a sawmill. He was discharged in 1941, after a year of mandatory service, but he rejoined the army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in the 91st Engineer Battalion in the United States Army in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War II. He was a soldier in the Pacific Theatre from 1941 to 1945. He reached the rank of Private First Class.

Brooks’ unit, an engineering corps, was tasked mainly with building infrastructure. However, during the Jim Crow-era, the army was segregated during Brooks’ service, and he was responsible for assisting white officers with daily tasks.

During a posting in Australia, Brooks noted that he was treated better by the white people there than in the United States in the decades before the Civil Rights movement.

After his military service, Brooks worked as a forklift operator in New Orleans until his retirement, and he had five children. His wife, Leona, died shortly after Hurricane Katrina. In the mid-2010s, The National WWII Museum began to host an annual birthday party for Brooks. In 2020, this celebration included a flyover of World War II aircraft above Brooks’ house, with the museum’s “Victory Belles”, a trio of singers performing songs predominately from the 1940s era. The city of New Orleans also recognized Brooks’ birthday with an official proclamation.

Brooks died on January 5, 2022, in his New Orleans home, at the age of 112. His daughter, Vanessa Brooks, confirmed his death to the Military Times, hours later. She said that he had been back and forth to the New Orleans VA Hospital in recent months.

After his death on Wednesday, actor Gary Sinise posted a tribute on Twitter. Sinise said, “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.(See Photo Below)  He certainly had an incredible long life. God bless you, sir. An honor to know you. Rest In Peace.”

Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards also posted, saying: “I am sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Lawrence Brooks, America’s oldest World War II veteran and a proud Louisianan”.

President Joe Biden referred to Brooks as “truly the best of America”.

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