• Oldest US World War II veteran celebrates 110th birthday

    Last Thursday, the National World II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana celebrated the 110th birthday of Lawrence Brooks, who is believed to be the oldest living survivor of World War II in the US.

    The occasion was marked by the presence of the family, veterans and current military service members along with a performance of some patriotic classics by the music group Victory Belles trio. Brooks who was born in 1909 served as a support worker in the Army’s 91st Engineer Battalion and reached the rank of Private first class. The battalion was a majority African-American unit stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines during the war.

    He was a not a soldier eager for action and preferred to work as a cook in his unit. “When I first went, was drafted into the Army, old sergeant was telling us, ‘You’re training so you can go kill people,” Brooks said. “I said, ‘Kill people?’ As much as I love people, you’re telling me I’ve got to go kill them?”

    Stephen Watson, the president and CEO of the museum said,” The museum’s mission is to tell the important stories of the men and women who served in World War II. We are honoured to celebrate Lawrence Brooks, whose life and service are filled with such stories of bravery and determination.”

    Brooks was married to the late Leona B. Brooks and is the father of five children and five step-children. After returning from the war, he served as a forklift operator and finally retired at the age of seventy. In 2006, Hurricane Katrina largely affected his life and took his wife’s. “Hurricane Katrina took everything I owned, washed away everything,” Brooks said.

    His daughter Vanessa said that diet, exercise and faith are the three main reasons behind her father’s long life. “My daddy still gets on his knees at night and prays,” she mentioned. Brooks points out chewing gum, a habit that he picked by replacing cigarettes, as another cause of his longevity.

    In a recent interview, Brooks recalled a near death experience during the war while riding a C-47 cargo plane from Australia to New Guinea. The plane was fully loaded with barbed wire, but ‘one of the motors went out on it.’ The crew then began to throw out the cargo in order to lighten the plane.

     With only two parachutes for the pilot and the co-pilot, Brooks had to hurl boxes from the plane because his life depended on it. He made a joke about the pilot saying ‘If he’s going to jump, I’m going to grab him.” The crew was able to survive the occasion as the plane made it down safely. ‘It was a scary moment, but we made it,” Brooks said.

    The oldest alive WW II veteran is Gustav Gerneth, who is currently 113 years old and is considered as Germany’s oldest living person.

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