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Lawrence Brooks: Oldest US WWII veteran dies aged 112

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By Josephine Joly  with AP
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WWII veteran Lawrence Brooks holds a photo of him taken in 1943, as he celebrates his 110th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, on Sept. 12, 2019.
WWII veteran Lawrence Brooks holds a photo of him taken in 1943, as he celebrates his 110th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, on Sept. 12, 2019.   -   Copyright  Gerald Herbert / AP

The United States' oldest World War Two veteran, Lawrence N. Brooks, has died at the age of 112 on Wednesday.

His death was announced by the National WWII Museum and confirmed by his daughter. He was the oldest living US participant in World War II, according to President Joe Biden.

The former soldier was deployed to Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines, as service personnel.

Brooks served during the war in the predominantly African-American 91st Engineer Battalion deployed to Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines, which did not directly participate in combat operations but provided auxiliary services as well as construction activities.

He was assigned as a caretaker to three white officers for whom he cooked, took care of their laundry, and was responsible for driving duties.

"Most African-Americans serving in the segregated US armed forces at the beginning of World War II were assigned to non-combat units and relegated to service duties, such as supply, maintenance, and transportation," said Col. Pete Crean, vice president of education and access at the museum in New Orleans.

But Brooks, born on September 12, 1909, was known for his good-natured sense of humour, positivity, and kindness.

He did not often speak publicly about the discrimination he and other Black soldiers faced in the war, or the discrimination his family faced in the Jim Crow Deep South, his daughter said.

When asked for his secret to a long life, Brooks often said, "serving God and being nice to people".

After World War II, Brooks worked professionally as a forklift operator for 40 years and retired in his 70s.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, of the 16 million veterans who fought in World War Two, about 240,000 remained alive as of September 2021.