10 Oldest World War II Veterans

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World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945. During that time, millions of men and women from around the world enlisted in their country’s military and unfortunately, an estimated 50 to 80 million people did not survive. Being a World War II veteran is a distinguished honor and everyone on this list was celebrated for their service. Some of the people on this list are still living, while others have already passed away. At the time of this writing, they are the ten oldest World War II veterans in the world ever.

10. Ralph Tarrant (July 7, 1903 – October 30, 2013)

Oldest Age Reached: 110 years, 115 days
Still Living:  No
Country of Origin:  United Kingdom
Military Branch:  United Kingdom Royal Air Force

Ralph Tarrantphoto source: gerontology.wikia.com

Ralph Tarrant was the oldest living man in the United Kingdom before his death in 2013. He was also the oldest British World War II veteran. Prior to WWII, Tarrant worked as a steel inspector and during the War, he was a corporal with the Royal Air Force. After WWII, he was an insurance salesman for Refuge Assurance until he retired in 1968.

When he was asked about the secret to his longevity, Tarrant said that there was no secret. He said that he smoked until he was 70 and still enjoyed a drink every once in a while. During his 110th birthday celebration, Tarrant said he didn’t feel his age, especially mentally, but that his body did experience aches and pains. In addition to being a supercentenarian and one of the oldest veterans ever, Tarrant and his wife, Phyllis, were Britain’s longest married couple after being together for 79 years. Phyllis died in 2012 at the age of 102.

9. Frank Levingston (November 13, 1905 – May 3, 2016)

Oldest Age Reached: 110 years, 172 years
Still Living:  No
Country of Origin:  United States of America
Military Branch:  United States Army

Frank Levingstonphoto source: www.af.mil

Prior to his death in 2016, Frank Levingston was the oldest verified World War II veteran in the United States as well as the oldest living man. Levingston enlisted in the United States Army in 1942, less than one year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. According to Levingston’s nephew, Jee Levingston, “He felt the obligation to give to the country whatever he possibly could, he was very excited about it. He gave it his very best.” Although Levingston never married or had children of his own, Levingston was the backbone of his family and took care of his nephews and nieces.

On his 110th birthday, Levingston received a letter from the White House thanking him for his service during World War II. In 2015, for the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Levingston visited Washington D.C. and laid a wreath at the National World War II Memorial.

8. Niko Dragos (August 27, 1907 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 110 years, 205 days
Still Living:  Yes
Country of Origin:  Slovenia
Military Branch:  Yugoslav Military

Niko Dragosphoto source: gerontology.wikia.com

Niko Dragos is the oldest Slovenian World War II veteran and also the oldest Slovenian man of all time. He is currently the oldest living person in Slovenia and was the first Slovenian man to become a supercentenarian. Dragos was born in Griblje, which is in present-day Slovenia, but was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time of his birth.

As a young man, Dragos found a job with the Yugoslav military and worked as a border guard at the Yugoslav-Bulgarian border in present-day Serbia. He later became the head of the border patrol. Not long after the outbreak of World War II, Dragos was captured by the Germans and was held as a prisoner of war until the end of the war. After surviving the war and being released, Dragos worked as a record clerk for the Yugoslav police until he retired in 1965. Dragos had two children, who convinced him to write an autobiography for his 100th birthday, which was published in 2007.

7. Gertrude Noone (December 30, 1898 – September 10, 2009)

Oldest Age Reached: 110 years, 254 days
Still Living:  No
Country of Origin:  United States of America
Military Branch:  Women’s Army Corps

Gertrude Noonephoto source: gerontology.wikia.com

Gertrude Noone is the second oldest female World War II veteran ever. Noone enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943 at the age of 44 years old. She continued her service until 1949 and eventually became the chief clerk of the dispensary at Fort Meyer, near Washington D.C. Noone ended her military career with the rank of sergeant first class. After the war, Noone worked as an administrative assistant at a private psychiatric hospital in Stamford, Connecticut until she retired in 1962.

Before her death, Noone was the oldest known living military veteran in the world. According to her grandniece, Noone was proud of this fact and said that she told her niece that it was important to serve when she did during WWII. Noone was buried with full military honors at Mount St. Peter’s Cemetery in Derby, Connecticut.

6. Leopold Vietoris (June 4, 1891 – April 9, 2002)

Oldest Age Reached: 110 years, 309 days
Still Living:  No
Country of Origin:  Austria
Military Branch:  Austrian Army

Leopold Vietorisphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Leopold Vietoris was not only a supercentenarian and a veteran of both World Wars, but he was also a notable Austrian mathematician. During his career in mathematics, Vietoris made significant contributions to topology, most notably the Mayer-Vietoris sequence.

Vietoris was studying mathematics and geometry at the Technical University in Vienna, when World War I broke out. He volunteered for service in the Austrian Army in 1914, but was badly wounded about a month after enlisting. After he recovered from his injuries, Vietoris was sent to the Italian front, and despite being in the middle of a war, Vietoris was able to publish his first paper. During his time as a prisoner of war, Vietoris completed writing his doctoral thesis due to being treated well by his Italian captors. When World War II broke out, Vietoris volunteered again, but was 48 years old at the time. He was injured again, but continued his military service until he was 50.

5. Shelby Harris (March 31, 1901 – July 25, 2012)

Oldest Age Reached: 111 years, 116 days
Still Living:  No
Country of Origin:  United States of America
Military Branch:  United States Army

Shelby Harrisphoto source: gerontology.wikia.com

Although Shelby Harris enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, he never made it out of basic training due to a broken ankle. Despite never seeing any combat, Harris was still considered a WWII veteran, and was even recognized by the U.S. military on his 110th birthday. Shelby was crowned king for the day by the Rock Island, Illinois community and honored by the Joint Munitions Command for his service.

While he was still living, Harris was the oldest verified man in the United States. He passed away comfortably while he was sleeping at the nursing home he had lived in the for several years. Harris cited love as the secret to his longevity, he said, “One of the greatest things in the world is to love people and believe in people. I just try to live from day to day, I try to live the right kind of life. I try to live the truth. I love everybody and I want everybody to love me.”

4. Jerzy Pajaczkowski-Dydynski (July 19, 1894 – December 6, 2005)

Oldest Age Reached: 111 years, 140 days
Still Living:  No
Country of Origin:  Poland, but based in the United Kingdom
Military Branch:  Polish Army

Jerzy Pajaczkowski-Dydynskiphoto source: gerontology.wikia.com

Before he died in 2005, Jerzy Pajaczkowski-Dydynski was the oldest living man in the United Kingdom. Due to his age, Pajaczkowski-Dydynski was a veteran of both World Wars. In 1912, he was studying law, but at the outbreak of World War I, he went to Vienna, Austria to enlist in the Army. He was called up in 1915 and rose through the ranks.

By the time World War II started, Pajaczkowsi-Dydynski was a lieutenant-colonel in the Polish Army. After Poland fell, Pajaczkowski-Dydynski  escaped with his family to Paris, where he continued his army work. He escaped with his family once more after the fall of Paris in 1940 and safely made it to Edinburgh, where he remained until 1993. Pajaczkowski-Dydynski remained in the United Kingdom until his death and did not visit Poland again until he was 97 years old.

For his service during both World Wars, Pajaczkowski-Dydynski received several Polish decorations, including: the Cross of Polonia Restituta; Cross of Valour (1920); Silver Cross of Merit (1925). He also received a  Romanian decoration of distinction (1931) and three Austrian decorations in WWI for active service.

3. Emma Didlake (March 13, 1904 – August 16, 2015)

Oldest Age Reached: 111 years, 154 days
Still Living:  No
Country of Origin:  United States of America
Military Branch:  Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps

Emma Didlakephoto source: obamawhitehouse.archives.gov

Prior to her death in 2015, Emma Didlake was the oldest living American World War II veteran. She is also currently the oldest female veteran from WWII ever. About a month before her death, Didlake was honored by then U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House.

Didlake was 38 years old and a mother of five children when she decided to join the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. During her service, she held the rank of Private and remained in the U.S. as a driver. She earned several medal for her military contributions, including the Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal. After the War, Didlake and her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she remained until the end of her life. Didlake also joined the Detroit chapter of the NAACP and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.

2. Richard Overton (May 11, 1906 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 111 years, 313 days
Still Living:  Yes
Country of Origin:  United States of America
Military Branch:  United States Army

Richard Overtonphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Richard Overton is the oldest surviving America World War II veteran. He is also currently the oldest living man in the United States. Overton served in the U.S. Army during the War and arrived at Pearl Harbor with his black segregated unit immediately after the Japanese bombed the base. He continued to server until 1945 and achieved a technician fifth grade rank. For his service during the war, Overton received several awards, including a U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal, Expert Rifle Marksmanship Badge, Meritorious Unit Commendation, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.

Overton’s life and status as both a supercentenarian and WWII veteran have been highlighted several times through news articles as well as a National Geographic short documentary titled Mr. Overton. On his 111th birthday in May 2017, Overton’s community renamed the street he has lived on for over seven decades as Richard Overton Avenue. The mayor of Austin, Texas also declared his birthday as Richard Overton Day.

1. Gustav Gerneth (October 15, 1905 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 112 years, 156 days
Still Living:  Yes
Country of Origin:  Germany/Poland
Military Branch:  German Luftwaffe

Gustav Gernethphoto source: gerontology.wikia.com

Gustav Gerneth is not only the oldest World War II veteran in the world, he is also Germany’s oldest living person. Although he is believed to be a supercentenarian at the age of 112 years, his exact age is unverified. If his age is validated, he would be the oldest German man ever, the oldest living man in Europe, and definitively the oldest WWII veteran ever.

Gerneth was born in Stettin, which at the time was part of the German Empire and is now in Poland as Szczecin. Prior to World War II, Gerneth worked as a machinist for a shipping company. During the War, he served as a mechanic with the Luftwaffe, which was the aerial warfare branch of the combined German Wehrmacht military forces during World War II.

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