Lawrence Brooks, Oldest WWII Veteran, Passes Away at 112

Faye Higbee
lawrence brooks

“Serve God and be nice to people” was a secret to the longevity of WWII veteran Lawrence Brooks. On Tuesday, January 4th, he passed away in New Orleans at the age of 112. He was the oldest WWII veteran in the United States.

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We wrote about Lawrence Brooks back in 2020 when he was the recipient of a community birthday party complete with a parade and a song by The Victory Belles, a trio from the WWII Museum. He was also honored that day with flyovers by the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and The Big Easy Wing. This year, however, Lawrence was not up to his usual cheerful self.

Screenshot of Lawrence Brooks dog tags

A Norwood native who served in an engineering battalion in the Pacific during the war, Brooks had remained spry until very recently. He even danced a few steps on his porch at his socially distanced 111th birthday party in 2020, as a trio of female singers sang to him from the sidewalk.

That year, the National World War II Museum had received more than 21,500 cards, letters and packages addressed to him from well-wishers from all 50 states and nearly 30 countries…

Over the past year, though, Brooks had grown weak. His hearing had become more limited, he lost his sight in one eye, and his vision faded in the other. A broken hip and abdominal surgery had taken their toll.

NOLA

As we reported previously, Brooks was a member of the predominantly Black 91st Engineering Battalion during the war. Sent to Australia, the Philippines, and New Guinea, Pvt First Class Lawrence Brooks helped build bridges, roads and airstrips. When he left the Army in 1945, he shined shoes, chauffered, and became a forklift operator. He retired in his 70s. He attended St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in New Orleans and was known as a man of faith who was brought up to love everybody.

Even though he often experienced racism, he made the choice to keep moving forward without bitterness.

“He seemed to not have any bitterness about the way Black soldiers were treated in WWII.He recognized it, dealt with it, and decided that would not define his life.”

Lynn Crean, friend of Lawrence Brooks

“Serve God and be nice to people.” Indeed, Lawrence Brooks, we honor your service and your precious view of life.

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Featured screenshot via Twitter

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