In light of Woody Williams’ passing this June, interest has piqued over how many World War 2 veterans are still alive as of this year.
Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, the last surviving World War 2 Medal of Honour recipient passed away on 29 June 2022 at the age of 98.
“Today at 3:15am, Hershel Woodrow Williams, affectionately known by many as Woody went home to be with the Lord. Woody peacefully joined his beloved wife Ruby while surrounded by his family,” the Woody Williams Foundation announced in a statement Wednesday (29 June).
But how many more veterans are still alive in the United States today?
How many American WW2 veterans are still alive in 2022?
Although the Second World War occurred over seven decades ago, there are still hundreds of thousands of veterans still alive in the United States.
The Department of Veterans Affairs statistics logs the number of surviving veterans and predicts the number of surviving veterans by year.
The most recent survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs was taken in 2018 which showed there were 568,344 surviving veterans in the United States. They have predicted that as of 2022, there will be 174,387 veterans still alive.
It comes as no surprise that this figure is so high, given that over 16 million American citizens served in the armed forces throughout the Second World War.
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A look back over Woody Williams’ career in the army
Woody Williams was born in West Virginia back in 1923, and would go on to spend his formative years as a young adult serving in the armed forces. Williams served 20 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserves.
Williams earned his Congressional Medal of Honour during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He earned it for his displays “valiant devotion to duty.” President Harry Truman presented Woody Williams with the medal in a ceremony at the White House on October 5, 1945.
After the war ended, Williams worked for 33 years in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Williams was one of 473 Americans to earn a Medal of Honour
Millions of American soldiers served in the armed forces throughout the duration of the Second World War, but only a few hundred were commended for their valiant efforts.
According to the National WW2 Museum of New Orleans, there were 473 recipients of a Medal of Honour for their service. It is described on the website as the Nation’s “highest military award for valor is given for action above and beyond the call of duty.”
The Medal of Honour was first authorised in 1861, and to date, 3,525 Medals of Honour have been bestowed to American servicemen and women. It is sometimes referred to as a Congressional Medal of Honour given that the President is required to present, in the name of the Congress, the recipient their medal.
Many WW2 recipients were granted the Medal of Honour posthumously. The most recent medal awarded to a WW2 veteran was to US Army First Lieutenant Garlin Conner. Conner had previously received a Distinguished Service Cross, although this was upgraded to a Medal of Honour by former President Donald Trump in 2018. His widow, Pauline Conner, accepted the Medal on his behalf.
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There are thought to be thousands of British veterans still alive
The exact figure of surviving British veterans living in the UK as of this year is unknown, but it has been approximated in the thousands, if not tens of thousands.
According to the ONS Census taken in September 2021, 0.9% of the population is aged 90 years and over. This is around 527,900.
To be over 90 years old as of September 2021, one would have to be born in 1931. The Second World War broke out in September 1939 and lasted until September 1945. Conscription was introduced in Britain for men aged between 18 and 41, however many soldiers lied about their age and some as young as 16 years old fought.
To be 18 years old at the outbreak of the war, one would have to be born in 1921, making them over 100 years old if currently alive. However, one could also be 18 and conscripted to serve in 1944, meaning they’d be born in 1926. It is likely, then, that thousands of the 90+ generation in Britain currently alive served in the Second World War.