Lawrence Brooks, a World War II veteran believed to be the oldest man in the U.S., died in New Orleans Wednesday morning at the age of 112, after winning wider attention in recent years for his long life span and annual birthday visits to the National World War II Museum.
The World War II Museum announced Brooks’ death on Wednesday, saying, “We are feeling his loss heavily.”
He had been the oldest American World War II veteran since Richard Overton died in 2018, also at the age of 112.
Brooks was born on September 12, 1909, into a family of 15 children in the village of Norwood, Louisiana, and was drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 31.
Brooks, a Black man, served during the war by cooking and cleaning for white officers in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines, according to the World War II Museum, though Brooks recalled of his time there: “I was treated so much better in Australia than I was by my own white people.”
He is survived by 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren, according to the World War II Museum.
“Serve God, and be nice to people,” Brooks would say when asked how to live a long life.
Around 16 million Americans served in the military during World War II, but only a small fraction remain alive, with the youngest living veterans now in their mid-90s. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 240,000 U.S. World War II veterans were living as of September 2021, though the number is quickly declining. About 234 die every day. The number of living WWII veterans is expected to drop under 100,000 by 2024 and fall below 50,000 by 2026, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The U.S. commemorated the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor last month. Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base killed more than 2,300 people and led to the U.S. entering World War II. See photos of the attack here.