World War II veteran Lawrence Brooks celebrates his 112th birthday on his front porch in New Orleans.
The National WWII Museum
- Lawrence Brooks, the oldest US veteran of World War II, has died at the age of 112.
- Brooks was drafted in 1940 and served in the predominately Black 91st Engineer Battalion.
- Brooks served in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines but was later denied GI benefits.
The US’s oldest living World War II veteran, Lawrence Brooks, has died at the age of 112, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
Brooks, a native of Louisiana, was drafted in 1940. The US Army was segregated at the time, and Brooks served in the 91st Engineer Battalion, which was made up of 1,193 Black enlisted soldiers and 25 white officers.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the museum said they are mourning the passing of a dear friend.
“His consistent advice when asked for the secret behind his longevity was, ‘Serve God, and be nice to people,'” the museum said.
Born outside of Baton Rouge in 1909, Brooks was one of 15 children. His parents were sharecroppers who moved to Mississippi after the Great Depression. After being drafted in 1940 and serving his required year, Brooks returned to service shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“There was no question,” Brooks told the National World War II Museum in an oral history interview. “They just came right back and got me again.”
Brooks during his 111th birthday party.
Courtesy of The National WWII Museum
Brooks served in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines, and was once quoted as saying he was treated better in Australia than by his own people.
At the end of his time in the military, Brooks was denied GI benefits and unable to go to college. He worked as a forklift operator until retiring in his 70s. He is survived by five children, 13 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren.
Brooks’ family have become advocates of a proposed law that would address racial disparities in GI Bill provisions.
Last month, Brooks’ daughter, Vanessa Brooks, told CBS News that if this bill were to pass, she could “go back to school on my daddy’s shoulders.”
“It’s too late for him, but he wants me to go to school, and I want to go to Tulane, but it’s just a dream,” she said.
Brooks was something of a celebrity in his home state. For the past seven years, the WWII Museum has hosted birthday celebrations for him, including drive-by celebrations at his home in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The museum also organized a birthday card campaign for Brooks, which generated over 21,000 cards from 30 countries.