Youngest WW2 Soldiers

8 of the Youngest Soldiers to Serve in WW2

During the 1940s, it seemed as if the world was being consumed and swallowed whole by forces of evil so sinister it was as if it came straight out of a comic book. One of our most famous fictional heroes, Captain America, was born out of a very desperate human need to place our hopes into a singular soldier to bring us to salvation and save us from the insurmountable forces at play.

World War 2 marked a time when the world needed true heroes. Those who exemplified bravery stood to fight evil for the sake of humanity and its future. It was an all-hands-on-deck mentality. Young and old were called to fight a cause that was worth fighting.

So, let’s take a look at some of the youngest soldiers to wear the uniform of their nation in service of a cause greater than themselves.

8. Douglas Bader

Age: 29
Born: 02/21/1910
Country: England
Division: Air Force

photo source: commons.wikimedia.org

Douglas Bader wasn’t young, relative to who we’ll be meeting throughout the rest of this list. However, as a 29-year-old during the dawn of the Second World War, we’d be remised if he didn’t get an honorable mention and start us off. Bader was the aerial fighting pride from Chiswick, London, and turned himself into a prolific fighter pilot.

As a Royal Air Force flying ace, he notched 22 aerial victories, damaged 11 enemy aircraft, and proved to himself and his contemporaries he was an effective leader with four dogfighting team victories as the group captain. Notable battles he was involved in were the Battle of France, Battle of Dunkirk, and Operation Dynamo. His leadership in his adulthood was a total 180-degree turn from his troubled youth as a boy notorious for his defiant attitude and disrespect for the law. He was quoted saying “rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”

Did You Know?

In 1931, Douglas suffered the loss of both his legs after he crashed in a new British bulldog plane while performing aerobatic maneuvers meant to show off the remarkable engineering. Discharged from the Royal Air Force, he had to get comfortable with his new civilian life. Cut to 1939 amidst the outbreak of WW2. Douglas reapplied to the Royal Air Force, was allowed to rejoin given the urgent circumstances, and was once again an effective, indispensable defender of queen and country.


7. Bill Edwardes

Age: 16
Born: 1926
Country: England
Division: 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment Infantryman

Bill Edwardesphoto source: telegraph.co.uk

Bill Edwardes was a burnt-out, 16-year-old factory worker who had dreams of serving and defending his country for a righteous cause. He spent his first four years of the war as an evacuee in Wales and quickly grew tired of the monotony of factory work. And who can blame him? Taking matters into his hands, he returned to London in 1943 with the intent of enlisting. The 16-year-old told his recruiting officer that he was 17-and-a-half, which the recruiting officer decided to accept at his word. Perhaps it was the half that sold him.

He was a bit small and had a lot of maturing to do for a 16-year-old. He was sent to a camp for kids that didn’t meet the base level for the strength needed to be a soldier for the U.K. At 17, he was below the military legal age. But with D-Day approaching, it wasn’t the time to ask questions. He became the stretch-bearer, the one responsible for picking up wounded on the battlefield and making the difficult decision of triaging the wounded, deciding who could be saved and who could not.

Did You Know?

Bill Edwardes was involved in Hill 112 and Mont Pincon. They’re known as two of the most fatal battles in the Normandy campaign. By 1944, battle-hardened and equipped with life’s best teacher, experience, he began training and overseeing recruits just one year after his enlistment.


6. Stan Scott

Age: 16
Born: 1926
Country: England
Division: Commando

photo source: historycollection.com

Stan Scott was 15-years-old when he pretended to be 18 to get the stamp of approval for enlistment. Somehow accepted, his mother caught wind of his clandestine endeavors, and the hopeful hero was sent home. Never underestimate the determination of a young kid filled with purpose because he was back at it just a year later. At 16, Stan Scott was guarding aerodromes in Kent.

Stan had a motive beyond defending his country. That was to travel and broaden his worldly horizons. He joined the commandos to do just that. At 18-years-old, he was in the middle of the horrors of D-Day, arguably the most recognized and devastating battle to take place in the resistance against German occupation.

Did You Know?

Stan dealt with a few injuries from combat but returned to the frontlines in 1945 and found himself at a concentration camp located at Bergen-Belsen. There, he met a soldier out of London, Len Chester, with whom he had an immediate kinship with considering Chester was a fellow soldier with their innocence of youth sacrificed for the good of the country. Except in Len’s case, he was 13-years-old. We’ll be coming back to him soon.


5. Hank Welzel

Age: 16
Born: 1921
Country: Germany
Division: Nazi Regime/U.S Military Marine

Hank Welzelphoto source: gahmusa.org

Hank Welzel’s story, like the others who came before him on this list, is a fascinating one. However, when it comes to heroes and their journeys, Welzel distinguishes himself from his peers with a path that had some moral gray area and nuance attached to it. That’s because Hank was a former Hitler Youth and soldier for the German army. To complicate matters more, Welzel was already an American citizen!

At two, his father uprooted his family and brought them from Ohio back to Germany due to career opportunities. At 16, he was drafted into the German army, trained as a medic, and sent to the frontlines to face U.S. and British forces. Welzel recalls wrestling with an identity crisis, fearing telling any of his German comrades where he was born for the sake of his own safety. Post-war, Welzel embraced his American heritage and perhaps even sought to make amends for his role within the Nazi regime by joining the Marines and serving in the Korean War.

Did You Know?

Welzel earned the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Though he and many other soldiers suffered from PTSD after his time in combat, he was able to put his German past behind him and live comfortably with his wife in Freeport, Maine.


4. Lenny Bruce

Age: 16
Born: 10/13/1925
Country: United States
Division: Navy

photo source: commons.wikipedia.org

Most may know him as the raunchy comic, finding the humor in societal corruption, religion, and sex with his unique observations and commentary. He became a poster boy for the counterculture movement.

But before his fame and fortune, he was a 16-year-old kid who lied about his age to join the Navy. He was assigned the USS Brooklyn, where he saw combat in the Mediterranean and Atlantic seas. He was tasked with escorting convoy and fire support.

Did You Know?

Lenny was dishonorably discharged for lying his way out of service in the Navy and for demonstrating “a tremendous amount of homosexual drive.” However, he appealed successfully. His record reflected a discharge under honorable conditions for unsuitability to serve in the Navy.


3. Adolfo Kaminsky

Age: 16
Born: 10/01/1925
Country: France
Division: French Resistance

Adolfo Kaminskyphoto source: mahj.org

Adolfo Kaminsky was a member of the French Resistance and specialized in the forgery of identity documents. He was a self-taught chemist with a knack for convincing forgery and turned himself into the premier underground forger in Europe. Who knew chemistry and forgery had some skill carry-over?

Kaminsky joined the resistance at 16 and began his work in an underground laboratory in Paris, spending the duration of the war forging identity papers for victims from all walks of life on the run from the Nazis.

Did You Know?

Kaminsky is credited with saving over 14,000 Jewish men, women, and children from the pursuits of Nazi Germany.


2. Len Chester

Age: 14
Born: 1925
Country: England
Division: Bugle Boy for the British Royal Marines

Len Chesterphoto source: historycollection.com

Len Chester, eager to enlist into the British Royal Marines any way he could, earned himself an official spot within the ranks at 14-years-old as a bugle boy. After training, he was stationed at Scapa Flow in Scotland – the main base for their Navy.

At 18, Len paid his dues as a bugle boy and was an official Royal Marine, serving until 1955.

Did You Know?

Chester served far beyond wars end, and after 16 years within the ranks, he retired with his mind and body intact and raised a family of his own. He found work as an insurance agent and retired at 82. He wrote about his wartime experiences in his autobiography, Bugle Boy.


1. Calvin Graham

Age: 12
Born: 04/03/1930
Country: United States
Division: Navy

photo source: commons.wikimedia.org

Calvin Graham is the youngest soldier to serve in World War 2!

Calvin was 12-years-old when he fought in WW2. Following the events of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted and became a member of the U.S. Navy on August 15, 1942.  

After six weeks of basic training, the boy was thrust into the world of adulthood and witnessed horrors not meant to be seen by a boy in his teens. At Pearl Harbor, he was put on the USS South Dakota.

Did You Know?

Calvin ended his military career as a highly decorated serviceman. He received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, multiple service stars, and other honorable distinctions. At one point, his medals were stripped but reinstated.

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