Special Report

The Oldest Living Veterans of WWII

The survivors of World War II, the most horrific conflict in human history, are dying quickly as the cohort grows older and older. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, an average of 234 American veterans of the war pass away each day. 

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans reports that as of the end of 2022, there were 167,284 American veterans still alive from among the nearly 16 million who served in the nation’s military during the war. The DVA expects that number to be less than 100,000 by 2024 and under 50,000 by 2026, (Worldwide figures are difficult to come by.) 

While some veterans entered the war at the age of 18 (sometimes younger in some places) and would thus be in their late 70s or early 80s today, depending on when the joined the service, others started even before war was declared and/or were older when their tour of duty began. 

To compile a list of the oldest survivors of World War II, 24/7 Tempo consulted the Gerontology Wiki, published by Fandom, an entertainment and gaming fan site. We limited our list to those who are at least 105 years old. Seventeen of those on the list were confirmed alive as of Feb. 13, 2023, and to the best of our knowledge, the remaining survivors are still with us as well.  

 Among those lucky to be alive are former Kriegsmarine submariner Friedrich Grade, the last surviving crew member of the submarine U-96; Constantin Hertoiu, a Romanian soldier captured by the Soviet Union during the Battle of Stalingrad and held prisoner by the Russians for five years in Siberia; and Kazimierz Klimczak, a Polish Army officer, who is the oldest living participant in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. (See the 18 biggest battles of World War II.)

There is no shortage of heroes among the survivors on our list. They include Moon Fun Chin, a Chinese-American pilot who volunteered to rescue those on military missions and saved the lives of US military personnel, and Marcel Barbary, who escaped internment twice, eventually joining Charles de Gaulle’s Free French forces. (In our own time, these are the 10 most decorated war heroes of the 21st century.) 

Click here to read more about the oldest living veterans of World War II

In the course of the war, some of these survivors surmounted bias to serve their nations. James Clayton Flowers is one of the last of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Black aviators who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and spearheaded the integration of the American armed forces. Jamaican-born Ena Joyce St. Clare Collymore-Woodstock was one of the first Black female radar operators for Great Britain, known for tracking the route of incoming enemy planes.

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