Oldest US Veteran of WWII, Lawrence N. Brooks, Dies at 112

NEW ORLEANS — Lawrence N. Brooks, the oldest World Warfare II veteran within the U.S. — and believed to be the oldest man within the nation — died on Wednesday on the age of 112.

His loss of life was introduced by the Nationwide WWII Museum and confirmed by his daughter.

Most African People serving within the segregated U.S. armed forces originally of World Warfare II had been assigned to noncombat models and relegated to service duties, similar to provide, upkeep and transportation, mentioned Col. Pete Crean, vice chairman of training and entry on the museum in New Orleans.

“The explanation for that was outright racism — there’s no different method to characterize it,” Crean mentioned.

However Brooks, born on Sept. 12, 1909, was recognized for his good-natured humorousness, positivity and kindness. When requested for his secret to a protracted life, he typically mentioned, “serving God and being good to folks.”

“I don’t don’t have any arduous emotions towards no person,” he mentioned throughout a 2014 oral historical past interview with the museum. “I simply need every part to be pretty, to come back out proper. I need folks to have enjoyable and luxuriate in themselves — be comfortable and never unhappy.”

On sunny days, Brooks was recognized for sitting on the entrance porch of the double shotgun home he shared with daughter Vanessa Brooks within the Central Metropolis neighborhood of New Orleans. Neighbors would name out to the native movie star, wave and produce him soda and snacks.

Brooks was passionate in regards to the New Orleans Saints soccer crew and by no means missed a sport, his daughter mentioned. His church, St. Luke’s Episcopal, was additionally near his coronary heart and he by no means missed a Sunday service till the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Initially from Norwood, Louisiana, close to Baton Rouge, Brooks’ household moved to the Mississippi Delta when he was an toddler. He was one among 15 kids, and lived too removed from the closest college, so his mother and father taught him what they may at house.

Brooks was working at a sawmill when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940. After Japan’s assault on Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to the principally Black 91st Engineer Basic Service Regiment stationed in Australia.

Later within the struggle, troop losses just about pressured the army to start putting extra African American troops into fight positions. In 1941, fewer than 4,000 African People had been serving within the army. By 1945, that quantity elevated to greater than 1.2 million.

The 91st, the place Brooks served, was an Army unit that constructed bridges, roads and airstrips for planes. Brooks was assigned as a caretaker to 3 white officers. His job was to cook dinner, drive and deal with their garments.

Brooks didn’t typically communicate publicly in regards to the discrimination he and different Black troopers confronted within the struggle, or the discrimination his household confronted within the Jim Crow Deep South, his daughter mentioned.

Crean, who acquired to know Brooks and his household by his work on the museum, mentioned Brooks did discuss noticing how significantly better he was handled as a Black man in Australia in contrast with the U.S. However Brooks advised Crean occupied with it will make him offended, so he tried to not. Throughout his oral historical past interview, Brooks mentioned the officers he cared for handled him nicely and he thought-about himself lucky to not should battle in fight.

“I acquired fortunate. I used to be saying to myself, ‘If I’m going to be taking pictures at any person, any person’s going to be taking pictures at me and he may get fortunate and hit,’” he mentioned.

He typically advised the story a few time when he was a passenger in a C-47 plane delivering a load of barbed wire to the entrance when one of many transport airplane’s engines went out.

After they dumped the cargo to preserve weight, he made his method to the cockpit. He advised the pilot and co-pilot that since they had been the one two with parachutes, in the event that they needed to bounce for it, he was going to seize on to one among them.

“We made it, although,” he mentioned throughout the 2014 oral historical past interview, laughing. “We had a giant snicker about that.”

Regardless of not being in fight, Brooks did expertise enemy fireplace throughout the struggle. He mentioned the Japanese would generally bomb Owen Island, the place he labored. He mentioned he discovered to inform the distinction between the sounds of Japanese, American and German planes approaching.

“We’d be operating like loopy, attempting to cover,” he mentioned. They needed to dig foxholes to guard themselves.

He was discharged from the Army in August 1945 as a non-public top notch.

When he returned from service, he labored as a forklift driver till retiring in his 60s. He has 5 kids, 5 stepchildren, and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He misplaced his spouse, Leona, shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

That 2005 catastrophe destroyed his house. Then in his late 90s, he was evacuated from his house’s roof by way of helicopter. His daughter described him as “resilient.”

“He’s been by rather a lot. He’s actual robust, and that’s one factor I discovered from him. If nothing else, he instilled in me, ‘Do your greatest and no matter you possibly can’t do, it don’t make no sense to fret about it,’” she advised the AP. “I believe that’s why he has lived so long as he has.”

Beginning along with his one hundred and fifth birthday, the museum started throwing him annual birthday events. His favourite a part of the celebration was watching the Victory Belles, a trio performing the music of the Forties. Through the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the museum organized a parade in entrance of his house with brass bands and Krewe of Zulu warriors in full regalia.

“Even at 112, Mr. Brooks stood up for a bit bit and danced,” Crean mentioned.


Willingham reported from Jackson, Mississippi and Santana from New Orleans.

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