NEW ORLEANS (press release) – Lawrence Brooks, a New Orleans native and the oldest known U.S. veteran of World War II (source) celebrated his 111th birthday at his home Saturday, Sept. 12. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, The National WWII Museum, which has hosted a birthday celebration for Mr. Brooks on its campus for the past five years, arranged a socially distant birthday celebration for the centenarian he viewed safely from his porch. The Museum’s vocal trio, The Victory Belles, performed a series of numbers including “Happy Birthday,” and Mr. Brooks enjoyed military plane flyovers courtesy of the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and The Big Easy Wing. The Museum additionally presented Mr. Brooks with a cake, a recorded message from President & CEO Stephen Watson and nearly 10 thousand birthday cards that were collected as a result of a national card drive.
“It is such an honor to have the oldest living U.S. veteran of World War II living so close to our institution, and it was meaningful for us to continue to celebrate Lawrence Brooks and his incredible life in a safe manner this year,” said Amber Mitchell, assistant director of public engagement at The National WWII Museum. “As we continue to lose members of The Greatest Generation, it is so important that we honor these men and women for their bravery and sacrifice while they are with us.”
World War II Veteran Lawrence Brooks and his family maintained a safe distance on his front porch as a small group of Museum staff wearing masks delivered a cake and cards, and The Victory Belles vocal trio serenaded him.
A military flyover courtesy of the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and The Big Easy Wing capped the festivities. The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team flew a North American T6 Trainer from World War II and The Big Easy Wing participated with a Boeing Stearman, a Bi-Plane aircraft used as the first step in training an aviator.
About Lawrence Brooks: Born Sept. 12, 1909, Lawrence Brooks served in the predominantly African-American 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines during World War II. He was married to the late Leona B. Brooks and is the father of five children and five step-children. His oral history, recorded by The National WWII Museum, is available here.