America’s Oldest WWII Veteran Dead At 112

( The oldest US veteran of the Second World War passed away last week at the age of 112.

Lawrence N. Brooks was drafted into the US Army in 1940. He was assigned to the 91st Engineer General Service Regiment stationed in Australia. The 91st built bridges, roads, and airstrips. Since black servicemen were initially not used in combat positions, Brooks served as a caretaker to three white officers for whom he cooked, did laundry, and did the driving.

And though he never directly faced combat, Brooks did find himself under enemy fire since the Japanese would often bomb Owen Island where he was stationed during the war.

The segregation and racism in the Army were commonplace at the time, but Brooks rarely spoke about it. In 2014, Brooks participated in an oral history for the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans. He said at the time that he was treated better in Australia than he was in the Jim Crow south.

Brooks was discharged from the Army as a private first class in August 1945. He took a job as a forklift operator which he had until his retirement in his sixties.

When he was in his late 90s, Brooks’ home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. He was one of the many New Orleans residents who was evacuated from the roof of his home by helicopter.

His daughter described Brooks as “resilient,” telling the Associated Press that the reason he lived so long is that “he’s real tough.” She said her father taught her to do her best and not to worry about the things she can’t do.

Brooks’ wife Leona died shortly after Hurricane Katrina. He is survived by five children, five stepchildren, and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Starting in 2004, the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans began throwing Brooks an annual birthday party. According to Colonel Peter Crean, the museum’s vice president for education and access, Brooks’ favorite part of his birthday parties was watching the Victoria Belles trio perform music from the 1940s. During the COVID pandemic, rather than cancel the birthday celebrations, the museum arranged a parade in front of Brooks’ home.