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Oldest American World War II veteran honored in New Orleans



Lawrence Brooks gets kisses from the Victory Belles. Photo by Chris Granger via his Twitter feed.
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Lawrence Brooks may well be the oldest living American to have served in World War II. He celebrated his 110th birthday Tuesday, Sept. 10.

To mark the occasion, family members, veterans and currently serving members of the military celebrated at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans with cupcakes and a performance by the Victory Belles trio.

Brooks, born in 1909, is a native of New Orleans.

Lawrence Brooks. Photo from the National World War II Museum website.

During the war, Brooks served with the U.S. Army 91st Engineer Battalion in a support role. The battalion was majority African American and was stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines at the time. Pfc. Brooks was a servant to three white battalion officers.

In an interview, Brooks recounted a brush with death on a trip from Australia to New Guinea when a motor went out in the C-47 cargo plane. Those on board lightened the load by throwing the cargo into the ocean, including bails of barbed wire.

There were only two parachutes on board: one for the pilot and the other for the co-pilot. Brooks joked about it, telling the co-pilot that if one of them jumped, Brooks would grab him.

“It was a scary moment,” he said, “but we made it. We had a big laugh about it.”

“We are honored to celebrate Lawrence Brooks whose life and service are filled with such stories of bravery and determination,” museum CEO Stephen Watson said in a statement.

Brooks is a father of five and stepfather to five.

The oldest living World War II veteran is believed to be Gustav Gerneth, 113, who served with the German military and was captured by Russians during the war.

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