This question was inspired by Slate’s Explainer column “How Do We Know 1,100 World War II Veterans Die Every Day?” Apparently, back in 2001, about 1100 American WWII vets were, in fact, dying every day.
So when will the last WWII veteran go gentle into that good night? I assume that 1100 per day is no longer an accurate statistic, given the 3 years since the Explainer article was written.
And, for that matter, I’m not necessarily limiting my question to US veterans, although that would be interesting to know as well. I am limiting my question to people who served as soldiers, though.
Other questions: what about other wars? How many WWI veterans are still alive, and when won’t there be any left? What about Korea? Vietnam? Gulf War I?
(Not that I’m eagerly anticipating the day for any of these events. I just got to wondering.)
Well, I’d guess that the youngest WWII vets would have been ~15 in 1945 (the Germans were desperate for manpower), which would give us a group born ~1930. Figuring that the oldest of that contingent makes it to 105-110 years old, and you’re looking at 2035-2040. Quite a while yet.
I don’t think there can really be a factual answer to this, given the variability in life spans. For example, this page lists the age of the last Confederate veteran as 112 at the time of his death. If we assume minimum age of 17 at the war’s end in 1945 (though there were certainly lots of younger Europeans in combat, especially Russians and Germans), then right now those men would be 76 years old. Using a life table from the CDC, we get an average years remaining of about 11 years. So, taking our Civil War friend as an outer bound, I’d say the last WWII veteran will be die sometime between 2015 and 2040. Other wars are left as an exercise for the reader.
And, on preview, I see Gorsnak beat me to it while was googling around. But, since I actually have a couple of hyperlinks, I’m going to submit it anyway.
There have been threads about this in the past: from memory there are about a dozen soldiers per major nation who’re still with us. However, since anybody who participated in any meaningful way will now be at least 100, it’s almost certain that the last WWI veteran will die within roughly the next decade.
Coincidentally, Channel 5 here in the UK ran a documentary this evening on the death of the Red Baron featuring a 104 year old veteran who’d witnessed it.
One thing that makes veteran survival statistics for WWII quite a bit different from previous wars is the large number of women who are considered official veterans. The US has quite a few and the old USSR had large numbers of women in uniform during the war. Since women live longer than men on average, add 3-6 years for guesses on maximum lifespan of veterans from WWII on.
I found this website which asserts that there are less than 500 American WWI vets still alive. There are over 4 million US WWII vets still alive. This info is from September of 2002, however, so the current figures are lower.
> So, taking our Civil War friend as an outer bound, I’d say the last WWII
> veteran will be die sometime between 2015 and 2040.
2015 is way too early. That would mean more than 3 million American vets would die in the next 11 years and then there’s all the vets from other countries. Even 2040 is somewhat conservative. There were lots of American soldiers drafted in 1944 and still 19 in 1945 when the war ended. As has been pointed out, there were younger vets in other countries, so there are at least some of them who were only about 15 in 1945. At least some of them will live to be 115. I would think that 2045 is a better guess, and it may be as late as 2050.
Even in this country there were a fair number of soldiers in WWII as young as 15 (or even younger) who had lied about their age. My father enlisted at 17, and one of his good friends from the neighborhood enlisted at 15. Back then birth records were less well kept, and if you looked old enough you could sometimes get away with it. But still, these would have been a pretty small proportion of total vets.