While records are sometimes sketchy and inconclusive, the following is a list of the last surviving veterans of the United States’ wars and major military operations.
War of Independence — John Gray (Jan. 6, 1764 – March 29, 1868)
John Gray joined in the fight for American independence in 1780 at the age of 16, six months prior to the end of the war, and participated in its concluding battle, the Battle of Yorktown. In 1866 he was awarded a pension of $500, semi-annually, for his service. He died at the age of 104 years, 2 months, 23 days.
It should be noted that Daniel Bakeman (1759-1869) was the last surviving pensioner of the Revolution, but no verification of his military service has yet to be discovered.
An estimated 184,000 – 250,000 people served in the military during the Revolution.
War of 1812 — Private Hiram Cronk (April 29, 1800 – May 13, 1905)
Hiram Cronk enlisted at the age of 14 and fought with the New York Volunteers at Sackett’s Harbor. He was honorably discharged on November 16, 1814, earning him a pension of $12 per month. In 1903 it was increased to $25 per month. At the time of his death he was 105 years, 15 days old.
286,730 veterans served in that war.
Mexican War — Apprentice First Class Owen Thomas Edgar (June 17, 1831 – September 3, 1929)
Owen Thomas Edgar enlisted in the US Navy on February 10, 1846, a little more than two months before the United States declared war on Mexico. He served until August 8, 1849, after serving aboard four frigates: Potomac, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and Experience.
He held the distinction of being the sole surviving veteran of the Mexican War for a total of 80 days, and died at the age of 98 years, 2 months, and 18 days.
78,718 veterans served during the Mexican War.
Civil War — Albert Woolson (February 11, 1847(?) – August 2, 1956
Albert Woolson enlisted as a drummer boy in Company C, 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment on October 10, 1864, either at the age of 17 years or 14 years of age. This is unclear, since he claimed to be born in 1847, but census data consistently lists his year of birth as 1850. Woolson’s unit did not see combat, and he was discharged on September 7, 1865. At his death he was either 109 years, 5 months, and 23 days old, or three years younger, depending on which date of birth is correct.
Woolson was not only the last surviving Union veteran, but the last surviving veteran of either side of the Civil War. The last surviving Confederate veteran whose service has been verified was William Townsend (April 12, 1846 – June 23, 1953).
2,213,363 Union soldiers and 600,000-1.5 million Confederate soldiers served during the Civil War.
Spanish-American War — Lt. Nathan E. Cook (October 10, 1885 – September 10, 1992)
Nathan Cook was 15 years old when he enlisted as a cabin boy and assigned to the USS Pensacola. His naval career spanned 44 years. Serving the first twelve years as an enlisted man, he saw action in the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Spanish-American War, the subsequent Philippine Insurrection, and clashes along the US/Mexico border. In 1913 he was promoted to the warrant officer rank of boatswain. In World War I he served as the commander of a submarine chaser that sank two German U-boats. In 1918 he was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant, a rank made permanent upon his retirement. Upon his promotion he was given command of the tugboat USS Favorite. World War II saw Cook stationed in Haiti and Panama before being assigned as executive officer of USS Mormacyork, a transport vessel. He retired from active service on April 1, 1942.
At the time of his death, Lt. Cook was 106 years, 11 months, and 1 day old.
It should be noted that Jones Morgan (1882-1993) also claimed to be the last surviving veteran of the Spanish-American War. His service was not able to be verified, but not refuted, due to the sloppy state of the records maintained by the Army at that time.
306,760 people served in the military during the Spanish-American War.
World War I — Corporal Frank Buckles (February 1, 1901 – February 27, 2011)
Frank Buckles enlisted in the US Army in 1917, serving with a detachment from Fort Riley, Kansas near the front lines in Europe. He was discharged in November 1919. During World War II, while working as a civilian in the Philippines, he was taken prisoner by Japanese forces and held as a civilian prisoner for three years.
Upon his death, Buckles was 110 years, 27 days old.
4,734,991 people served in the US military during World War I.
World War II — Remaining Veterans
Of the 16,112,566 members of the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, there were 1,017,208 still living as of September 9, 2014, with an estimated 413 passing away each day. The Veterans Administration estimates that by the year 2036, the last of the World War II veterans will be gone.
Korean War — Remaining Veterans
Of the 5,720,000 people who served in uniform during the Korean War, an estimated 2,275,000 are living as of 2015.
Vietnam War — Remaining Veterans
Of the 8,744,000 (3,403,000 deployed) who served during the Vietnam War, 7,391,000 are living as of 2015.
Desert Shield/Desert Storm
Of the 2,322,000 (694,550 deployed) who served during the 1990-1991 conflict in Iraq, 2,244,583 are living as of 2015.