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Top 10 Last 20th Century War Veterans

I wanted to challenge myself and try to come up with a list that did not just look back on history but also, tried to predict it. So I came up with a list of predicted dates by which the last known veterans of 20th Century wars will die. Unfortunately there are many 20th Century wars and conflicts to choose from. So I picked some of the better known wars, starting with four wars/conflicts that are down to their last known participants.

I am fascinated with last survivors of any historic event. For me it is incredible to think that with that individual resides the last living memory of something the impacted the entire world – surviving the Hindenburg or Titanic disasters, participating in world wars, etc. When that last person dies, all of that memory dies with them. With their death the event passes into history. It surprised me to learn that there were still American Civil War veterans alive almost up until the year I was born. Union soldier Albert Henry Woolson died in 1956 at the age of 109. Just this year we saw the passing of three such last survivors – Frank Buckles and Claude Choules, the last known and verified WWI combat veterans and Audrey Lawson-Johnston, the last survivor of the Lusitania sinking.

In an attempt to be consistent in calculating when the last known veteran of these 20th Century wars and conflicts will die, I came up with the following criteria. First – most young men who sign up for any war do so, at the youngest, at about the age of 16. Any younger and most militaries will toss them out. Of course this is not a guarantee and in some conflicts (Vietnam War) we can assume even younger men and women participated. However, in general, for most world armed forces, 16 years of age is the youngest they will knowingly allow a person to enlist. Go here for data on the recruitment ages for different countries.

Two – we can assume the last survivor of that war or conflict enlisted when they were 16 years old at the tail end of the war, or the last year of the war if the war was fought over multiple years. Therefore – we can assume this person will be the last known participant of that conflict to sign up, at the very end of the war, at the youngest possible age. Third – we can assume a maximum life expectancy for any man or woman of about 114 years. True, some rare individuals may live to the age of about 120, but this is very rare and for some reason, 114 appears to be the age where most super centenarians finally give out and die. If you want to read more on the science of why people generally clock out at the age of 114, read this.

Given these assumptions, we can calculate with a degree of certainty, when the last known veteran of any conflict should die. To test this theory, let’s look at one of the last surviving veterans of WWI – Frank Buckles. Buckles was born on February 1, 1901 and died on February 27, 1911 at the age of 110. He enlisted at the end of the war in 1917 at the age of 16. Had he lived to the maximum age of 114 (and died in 2015) he would have exemplified my assumptions. He was, quite possibly, one of the youngest and last to enlist, and lived almost to the maximum age of 114. Only one WWI veteran lived longer than Buckles (to the age of 111). Given shorter life expectancies of those born at the turn of the last century, it may not have been realistic to assume the veterans of this war could reach 114 years of age.

So here we go – here is a list of ten expected dates when the last veteran of a 20th Century war or conflict should pass away.

10

The Mexican Revolution
(1910-1920) – 2012

Mexican Revolution Rebels

The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Dí­az. Over time the Revolution changed from a revolt against the established order to a multi-sided civil war. Though it continued with sporadic bloodshed through the 1920s, the Mexican Revolution is generally thought to have ended about 1920 with the adoption of the Mexican Constitution of 1917.

The last known and verified participant died in 2010, Juan Carlos Caballero Vega who was Pancho Villa’s driver. However, two men claim to have fought in the revolution and are still alive, Guillermo Flores Reyes and John Redhawk, both born in 1898.

Therefore, assuming both of these men did in fact fight in the Mexican Revolution and either lives to the age of 114, the last veteran of that conflict will pass into history on or about the year 2012.

9

Polish and Soviet War
(1919-1921) – 2012-2014

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Józef Kowalski was born on February 2, 1900 and at the age of 111 is thought to be not just Poland’s oldest living man but also the oldest military veteran in the world. He is also the only living verified veteran of the 1919-1921 Polish-Soviet War.

Kowalski served in the 22nd Regiment of the Polish Army. He took part in the September Campaign in World War II, and was later held in a concentration camp. On his 110th birthday, he was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta for his war service by President Lech Kaczyński.

Assuming Kowalski lives to the age of 114 the last known veteran of the Polish-Soviet war will pass away on or about the year 2014. However, as we know the veterans of conflicts from this era seem to die at the age of 110-111, it may be safer to assume next year, 2012, will be the end for Mr. Kowalski.


8

World War I
(1914-1918)- 2015

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World War I was one of the two greatest wars of the 20th Century and involved at least 20 different countries around the world . World War I was called the World War or the Great War or The War to End All Wars from its occurrence until 1939, when we decided we should have a second world war and add numbers next to the title. World War I was a major war centered in Europe that began in July 1914 and lasted until November 11, 1918. It involved all the world’s great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies and the Central Powers. More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilized and more than 9 million combatants were killed, largely because of great technological advances in firepower. A staggering number of deaths and that does not include the millions more who died as a result of the war and the Great Influenza Pandemic that followed.

There is one verified person from the era of the World War I conflict still alive – though she did not fight in the war in any capacity. Still, she alone holds the last possible living memory of a participant to that historic event. Her name is Florence Beatrice Green and she was born on February 19, 1901 in England. Green joined the Women’s Royal Air Force in September 1918 at the age of 17 where she served as an officers’ mess steward. She is one of the 10 oldest people in Britain. She was identified as a Great War veteran in January 2010.

Assuming Ms Green makes it to the age of 114, we can assume the last surviving veteran of World War I will die on or about the year 2015.

7

Spanish Civil War
(1936-1939) – 2035

Renegades5

The Spanish Civil War began as a right-wing rebellion against the leftist Republican government of Spain. Led by General Francisco Franco, the Nationalist rebels fought a long and bloody civil war against their Republican foes. Franco’s forces received significant military aid from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republican side was aided by the Soviet Union. Franco won the war in 1939 and set up a Fascist government. This war is considered one of the precursor conflicts leading to World War Two.

We can predict with some accuracy when the last Spanish Civil War veteran will die because we know the age of the youngest surviving participant. The youngest known veteran on either side of this war is Hans Landauer, from Austria, who, at 90 years old, was born on April 21, 1921 (he fought on the Republic Side). He joined on February 12, 1937 and was wounded on September 4, 1937. He was arrested in November 1940 and sent to Dachau concentration camp.

Assuming he is the last survivor of this war and lives to a maximum age of 114, then the last surviving veteran of the Spanish Civil War should die no later than the year 2035.

6

World War Two
(1939-1945) – 2043

Wwii

World War Two, fought between the Allied and Axis powers and which involved dozens of countries around the world and the participation of tens of millions of combatants, needs no introduction or explanation. It was the single greatest war or conflict of the 20th Century, and that was saying something for the 20th Century.

Around the world the veterans of this the greatest of all 20th Century conflicts are dying off. Soon, this Great War will pass into history as the last of the millions of combatants passes away. In the US alone, of the estimated 16 million members of the United States armed forces during World War II, approximately 2 million American veterans are still living. However, these WWII veterans are dying at a rate of 310,000 per year. At that pace, the last US veteran should die in about 7 years, or 2018. However we know the pace of WWII veterans dying off is not steady and some will live until about the age of 114. Therefore, a more accurate estimate of when the last veteran of WWII will die would be around the year 2043. This assumes the youngest enlistee in WWII, from some country, was 16 years of age and enlisted at the very end of the war in August 1945 (a birth date of around 1929).

If that last veteran lives to be 114 years old, then the last veteran of World War II should die on or about 2043.

5

Korean War
(1950-1953) – 2051

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The Korean War or Korean Conflict has a big personal connection for me as my father fought in this war. Sadly, he never lived to the age of 114, but I had 75 great years with him anyway.

As most know, the Korean War was a conventional war fought between the United Nations forces, allied with South Korea, against the North Korean forces allied with China and the Soviet Union. The war ended with the division of Korea into North and South along the 38th parallel. About 20 nations participated in this war.

The Korean War ended with the signing of the armistice in July 1953. Assuming a 16 year old enlisted for one of the combatant’s armies at that time, just in time to participate in the end of the conflict, then that would mean they were born about 1937. Assuming that last veteran lives to the age of 114, then the last Korean War veteran, somewhere on Earth, will die on or about the year 2051.


4

Six-Day War
(1967) – 2065

Six Day War 01

The Six-Day War also known as the Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and June 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The war ended quickly with a decisive victory for Israel.

By far the easiest war to know when the youngest combatant may have registered (June 10, 1967), let us assume again they were 16 at the time. That means they were born in the year 1951. Assuming they live to be 114 years old, the last veteran of the Six-Day War will die on or about the year 2065.

3

Second Indochina War or the Vietnam War
(1956-1975) – 2073

Vietnam-War-Protest

The so-called “Vietnam War” was really a regional and international conflict involving not just North and South Vietnam and the U.S. but also embroiling Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and other countries. It ended in April 1975 with the fall of Saigon. About 20 nations participated in the Vietnam War either directly or as allies of the United States/South Vietnam and North Vietnam.

If the youngest enlistee for any of the combatants was 16 years of age at the end of the war in 1975, then that gives them a birth year of 1959. Assuming they live to be 114 years old, then the last known and verified combatant of the Vietnam War should die on or about the year 2073. As 1959 was the year I was born, the Vietnam War will be the last 20th Century war where I have even the slightest possibility of outliving the last combatant (hardly likely, but possible).


2

Falkland Islands War
(1982) – 2080

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The Falklands War also called the Falklands Conflict/Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom (UK) over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

The Falklands War started on Friday, April 2, 1982, with the Argentine invasion and occupation of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Britain launched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Argentine Air Force, and retake the islands by amphibious assault. The conflict ended with the Argentine surrender on June 14, 1982, and the islands remained under British control. The war lasted 74 days. It resulted in the deaths of 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors, and airmen, and the deaths of three civilian Falkland Islanders.

Assuming the youngest Argentinean or British service person enlisted in 1982 at the age of 16 and lives to be 114, the last known survivor of this conflict would die on or about the year 2080.

1

Iran-Iraq War
(1980-1988) – 2086

Chemical Weapon1

One of the bloodiest and least known wars of the latter half of the 20th Century was the eight year conflict between Iran and Iraq. Over a half million soldiers on both sides died. The Iran-Iraq War lasted from September 1980 to August 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the twentieth century. It was initially referred to in English as the “Persian Gulf War” prior to the “Gulf War” of 1990. The war began when Iraq invaded Iran, launching a simultaneous invasion by air and land into Iranian territory in September 1980.

Once again, assuming the last veteran enlisted in 1988 at the age of 16, the last known veteran of this war will die on or about 2086.

+

Gulf War
(1991) – 2089

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The Persian Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – February 28, 1991), commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from thirty-four nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq’s invasion and annexation of the State of Kuwait. Using the aforementioned criteria, the last known veteran of this war should die on or about 2089.

Thus, for some of the major conflicts and wars of the 20th Century, the last living participant from these wars will not make the 22nd Century. That is, assuming, huge new advances in medical technology and improvements in longevity do not make it possible (or even normal) to live past the age of 114.



  • chefjosh

    I’m writing a war list also. Top ten French victories,. I’m having a little trouble with my research though. Maybe ill just do the list I originally planned, 10 wars initiated by Switzerland.

    • OddJobb
    • what

      @author
      was there any reason at all to predict when they would die? Is that seriously something you felt we needed to be informed of? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a media source predicting when someone will die, this is certainly a first.
      @chefjosh
      I’ve never heard someone make a joke about french people not wanting to fight, you are so witty. i can’t wait for your list. here’s a hint, start with Napoleon, you know that dude that conquered like all of everything that mattered at the time.

    • Cherry Six

      chefjosh — maybe you should do an entirely different project. Find out how many years the United States has lived in peace throughout it’s existence. I can assure you, you will be shocked, and then you will know or should come to a conclusion as to why it it this number. Hint, those at the top get richer, while the poor, get poorer.

  • Name

    i won’t read that list

  • Terribilis

    Interesting list, but all the WWI veterans are definitely gone. I wouldnt count a woman who served drinks as a veteran, thats an insult to all the ones who did fight & die.

    • Not Being Fresh

      So a woman volunteers – doing what she’s allowed – and her services don’t count because she’s not in combat? How about nurses? They don’t fight. How about males who do support work? I guess they don’t count either unless they’re in combat… GFY

      (Good for you, jerk.)

    • odaltyr

      Yeah, the lister should at least have mentioned the last combat veteran, who incidentally was also British I believe.

  • chomo

    Florence Green died in February.

    • odaltyr

      Perhaps this list was in Jfrater’s waiting list for a while, and hasn’t been updated.

      • Vanowensbody

        Bingo.

        • BOONE

          Its funny to see how little editing listverse really does. How hard it is to change a few dates to reflect the current year?? Just laziness if you ask me.

  • Will Trame

    Very unique list. Even though it is impossible to predict what the future may hold, this was reading aimed at stimulating the grey matter. I have a prediction…I’m a Gulf War/Desert Storm veteran myself and I know I won’t be around to see the year 2089 being rung in.

  • Toltari

    You really understand how desperate the armies were towards the end of the war when you see they enlisted someone 6 years after their death.
    It was a different time back then, before the Geneva convention banned the use of kid-Zombie soldiers.

  • Fail
  • Uncle Ronnie Says

    Hi im Timmy and this is my comment. The list you just read or looked at the pictures was about predicting when the last veteran of a war in the past century kick the bucket. As a compulsive gambler i think we should turn this into a betting game and guess who will die last. I sneezed twice during the making of this comment. Umm anyways imma wrap this up now aight. In conclusion the list was better than my comment which fell dead (like the new zealand prostitute i went bangity bang bang baa with). I give this list 5 thumbs up.

  • gijs412

    Florence Green, the last WWI veteran is deceased at the age of almost 111 years old. Florence Green 1901-2012
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Green

    • Zair

      There goes the last piece of history for WW1

  • Zair

    I Know its like winning the lottery :p

  • JohnSampson

    I find it really strange that you have predicted the date of death for number 9, even in the subtitle of the entry.

    Why would you do this and not just leave it open???

    • JohnSampson

      Scratch that, just read the entire thing and see that you predict the deaths in all of them. Wow

  • firesaint

    1901 to 1911 is only ten years. Not 110,

  • Decent list. Obviously, there are other conflicts I’d have like to have seen included (the Yugoslav wars of the 1990’s, more of Israel’s wars with everyone around them, the 2nd Sino-Japanese War, the Communist Revolution in Russia, etc.), but still an interesting list.

    • PG

      You mean you can’t do the maths yourself (age 16, last year of conflict, date of birth add 144 and shazam)

      • I can do the maths myself. What I’m saying is that there were other conflicts I’d like to have seen covered in the list.

  • Bc

    This list is highly contentious throughout and does not take into account increases in life expectancy. However that doesn’t matter because this is possibly the dullest list ever published.

    • Sarc Asm

      I eagerly await your list of the top ten Bingo winners in the state of Georgia in 2011.

    • Maggot

      and does not take into account increases in life expectancy.

      He actually does take it into account, and provided supporting information regarding it.

  • Sbtier

    The last three veterans of WWI all died at age 110. Florence Greene as mentioned by posters above. Claude Choules of Australia was the last combat veteran of WWII and Frank Buckles (US) was the sexond – to-last combat veteran.

  • Mr. Egg

    Americas military is a beast. The only thing standing in our way is that we are somewhat civilized. We could have wiped out those goat sexters with gas and white phosphorous years ago. We are definitely the greatest military power to ever exist.

    • careytommy

      You are a cretin!

    • odaltyr

      Although your arrogance is despicable, you’re ultimately addressing a good point. The thing with modern wars fought by Western nations, is that Western nation at least try to respect human rights conventions – at the very least, when human rights aren’t respected by Western soldiers it becomes a major scandal in our countries and these soldiers are in trouble. On the other hand, we are fighting people who have absolutely no regard for these things, like the Taliban, and they have the audacity to actually surf on this by denouncing some “accidents” by Western soldiers the very day that they themselves committed a terrorist attack which killed dozens of innocent civilians.

      In these conditions, the wars can’t really be won. I’m not advocating that we should be as brutal and ruthless as those we fight, I’m merely pointing out that the odds are not in our favor.

      • Arsnl

        Yeah. Just look at Algeria. France fought bravely (takes guts to resort to torture) and look how that ended.
        7 mil tons of bombes dropped in Vietnam compared to 2.5 mil in WW2 and how did that end?
        The USSR attacked Afghanistan and look how that ended? 25000 people killed by mines. About 3-4% of the population disabled by mines and 10-12 million land mines remained afrer the war. Don’t tell me thats humane fighting.
        You seem to fail to understand that fighting changed once the Kalashnikov was invented.
        And an invading army always starts with a disavantage. Always. A more inhumane treatment would just caused more tension and more rebellion.
        PS: Sure you’ll hear many people say that the US almost won in Vietnam, just like you’ll hear that the confederates had a fighting chance during the civil war or the germans had a fighting chance during WW2 against. But thats just bull.

      • constabledubs

        All the Taliban is doing is trying to get their country back. I don’t condone their actions, but when you boil it down, that’s all they’re trying to do.

        What’s the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? The point of view.

        • Maggot

          All the Taliban is doing is trying to get their country back.

          “Their” country? An oppressive and brutally militant dictatorial (veiled in religious fundamentalism) regime seizing power through violence and intimidation does not make the country and its citizenry “theirs” with regard to your insinuation that “all they are doing” is innocently trying to protect it.

          What’s the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? The point of view.

          From the point of view of a terrorist, how are they fighting for freedom? Fighting for the “freedom” to oppress others is not the same as fighting to live free.

          • Arsnl

            Considering that now the americans are trying to reach to an agreement with the talibans I wouldnt be as rough as you are with your statements

          • Maggot

            an agreement with the talibans

            Well what do you think any such agreement would be based upon? “Carry on, business as usual, pretend we were never here…” ?

          • Thorlite

            “An oppressive and brutally militant dictatorial (veiled in religious fundamentalism) regime”

            Sounds like the US to me…..

        • odaltyr

          The Taliban are trying to get their country back as much as the Nazis were in 1944 in light of allied invasion of Germany. So yeah, you’re right, but ultimately that’s not really a defensible point IMO.

  • Zagging

    Pick 10 random conflicts of the past century, make an educated guess who the youngest person was when it ended, assume that person will live to 114, and call it a list.

    Pretty weak in my humble opinion.

  • constabledubs

    My grandpa fought in the Korean War. His best story is when he got leave to Japan for a week. He went out into the city and returned an hour later, because “the food was too weird”.

    He didn’t leave the military base the rest of the week, because they had “American food, a store, a gym, a movie theater, and a bowling alley” and that’s all he needed.

    Sad to think one day they’ll all be gone.

  • RoboChef

    ” …it may be safer to assume next year, 2012…”
    Does this mean I live in the future, as it’s already 2012 over here?

  • Jesus

    This makes no sense whatsoever.

    Random maths “predicting” when people will die?

    No.

  • Ralphie

    This is one of the most poorly written lists I’ve ever read on this site. The writer just states the obvious, and repeats himself over and over and over… it’s fucking lame, and I feel that much dumber for reading it. So thanks for that.

  • Whydoicomebackhere

    Listverse just reached a new low in morality!

  • Boamiel

    The youngest veterans in World War 2 were not 16, but much younger. When the Allies were surrounding Berlin, kids as young as 10, and some unconfirmed reports as young as 8, were transcripted into the German army to help defend the capital. Even though many never actually fought, many more died defending their capital before their 14th birthday.

  • trfan01

    You never know how long the last person will live. The last survivor of the Titanic died before she turned 100.

    But it is definitely something when everyone who witnesses an event passes into history. In the next few years we’ll also no longer have anyone who was born before 1900 (I’m not going to say “before the 20th century” for the century purists). I think the oldest people were born in 1896.

  • Test test

  • jimbo

    This list…… it’s just ridiculous.

  • Fred

    When I was growing up, my hometown paper (the Cleveland Plain Dealer) would put certain symbols next to the names of veterans who had died to signify the wars they had fought in. Growing up in the 70’s I thought it was kinda cool to have had some connection with men who fought in the Spanish-American War (1898), even if was just a mark on an occassional obituary.

  • Rob

    Not very creative having the last ones die off 98 years after the conflict ended for most of them.

  • Pauly

    Five more to add-

    1. UK vs. The IRA (early 1900’s-1990’s?)
    2. Soviet-Afghan war
    3. Chechnya
    4. Falklands
    5. Operation Just Cause (US vs. Panama)

  • corry

    well.. thank you for your math..

  • wealth30103

    Predicting something like this is a little weird==

  • Peter

    What about the Northern Irish Troubles?

  • You wrote that Frank Buckles died in 1911.

  • Ffiffisop

    What a pointless list. Very misleading title – should have been called “When I Think Veterans Will Die Should They Reach 114”. Stupid concept.

  • viktormagnusson

    These are all just 98 years after the war ended.

  • pointless

    I dont really understand how you claim to work out when people will die.

  • RawrBacon

    I’m sort of curious. If you were born in 1959, how is it that you had 75 great years with your father, the Korean war veteran? I’m not trying to be a dick, but it seems like you’re not nearly old enough to have experienced a 75 year relationship.

  • appliance moving dolly

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  • Frank B

    They whipped Washington at Great Meadows and again at Braddock a year later.

  • Wildbill040

    Pretty well thought out and well written. The dates are mind boggling to believe considering average age verses maximum lifetimes! But I have direct experience for the 114 YO maximum as my great aunt born April 7 1898 died August 11 2011 in Seattle. Her oldest brother Lowry fought in 5 major campaigns in WW1 under General Pershing. I now have all of the momentos he brought back along with his Colt 1911 he carried and used. He would not say how effective he was with it, but he came back alive. I was in the sandbox from February to May 1991 and was born in 1961 making 2075 seem impossible!