America's Oldest Living WWII Veteran Celebrates 110th Birthday at National WWII Museum

The oldest living World War II veteran in America celebrated his 110th birthday in style this week, with a ceremony at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

New Orleans native Lawrence Brooks was joined by friends, family, fellow service members and museum staff for a celebration in the Museum's Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. In addition to well wishes and birthday cupcakes, Brooks was feted by the museum's vocal trio, The Victory Belles, who serenaded him with patriotic classics.

National WWII Museum
Lawrence Brooks, believed to be the oldest living WWII veteran in America, celebrated his 110th birthday at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. National WWII Museum

"The Museum's mission is to tell the important stories of the men and women who served in World War II," said Stephen Watson, president and CEO of The National WWII Museum. "We are honored to celebrate Lawrence Brooks, whose life and service are filled with such stories of bravery and determination."

Born Sept. 12, 1909, Brooks served in the 91st Engineer Battalion, a predominantly African American squad stationed in New Guinea and later the Philippines. According to a release from the museum, Brooks "was a servant to three white officers in his battalion, and attained the rank of Private 1st Class during the war."

Married to the late Leona B. Brooks, he is the father of five children and five step-children.

The museum has worked to record oral histories from many who served during the war. In Brooks' interview, below, he recalled one of the more harrowing moments he endured during the war, when one of the engines went out on the C-47 cargo plane he was riding from Australia to New Guinea.

The plane was loaded down with barbed wire, so to lighten the load, the passengers began throwing cargo into the ocean. For Brooks it was a life or death situation—there were only enough parachutes for the pilot and the co-pilot.

"If he's going to jump, I'm going to grab him," Brooks says he joked to the pilot at the time. Fortunately, the plane was able to stay aloft long enough to reach land.

"It was a scary moment," Brooks recounted. "But we made it."

At 113 years old, Gustav Gerneth, a German soldier who was captured by the Russians, is believed to be the oldest living veteran of WWII.

Opened as the D-Day Museum on June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, the National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war—and its legacy today—through artifacts, interviews, art exhibits, interactive installations, lectures, events and more.

According to the museum, its goal is "[to] celebrates the American spirit, the team work, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front."