Dec 29 2022
Air Force Times
They have been called America’s “Greatest Generation,” applauded for their contributions during World War II and beyond. In 2022, the United States bid farewell to the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen and one of the last surviving Code Talkers. They are just a few of the many men and women who valiantly served the U.S. and died this year.
Below is a list of notable veterans, compiled by Military Times editors, who died during the calendar year.
Marine veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams was the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient.
Williams enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943. Two years later, he landed on Iwo Jima with the 21st Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. With the help of four other Marines, Williams engaged several Japanese pillboxes with his flamethrower during a fight that lasted more than four hours.
Williams fought the remainder of the Iwo Jima campaign before he was wounded on March 6, 1945, and removed from the battle. President Harry S. Truman awarded Williams the Medal of Honor in October 1945.
Williams died in June at the Huntington, West Virginia, Veterans Affairs hospital named in his honor. He was 98 years old.
Brig. Gen. Charles Edward McGee was one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, a group of primarily Black pilots who fought in World War II.
The Tuskegee Airmen escorted bombers across Europe, flying P-51 Mustang fighters with red-painted tails, a design that earned the pilots the nickname “Red Tails.”
McGee flew 409 combat missions over three wars — World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War — before he retired in 1973. President Donald Trump promoted McGee to brigadier general on Feb. 4, 2020.
McGee was 102 years old when he died on Jan. 16, 2022, at his home in Maryland.
Retired Lt. Gen. David E. Grange, Jr., a legendary Army Ranger, served in three wars.
Grange served as a paratrooper in World War II with the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, playing a role in several campaigns. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division when the war ended and before he went to Officer Candidate School.
Grange was sent to Korea with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, and then served three tours in Vietnam — the first as an adviser, the second with the 506th Infantry Regiment, and the third with the 101st Airborne Division.
The Army’s Best Ranger Competition was named for Grange in 1984, the same year he retired after 41 years of service.
Grange was 97 years old at the time of his death.
World War II veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin enlisted in the Army in 1942 when he was 20 years old. He trained with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. He was nicknamed “Pee Wee” because of how small he was in comparison to other soldiers.
Martin and the 506th joined the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, and later fought against the German counteroffensive in the Battle of the Bulge.
The 101st sent 500 troops to Martin’s funeral. He died Sept. 11, 2022, at 101 years old.
Lawrence Brooks was the oldest living World War II veteran at the time of his death on Jan. 5, 2022.
Brooks was drafted and entered the Army in 1940 and discharged in 1941 after his obligatory one-year service. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Brooks returned to the Army, eventually serving in Australia, Papua and the Philippines with the 91st Engineer Battalion.
Brooks was 112 when he died in New Orleans, Louisiana. His memorial service was held at the National WWII Museum. Members of the 91st Brigade Engineer Battalion drove from Fort Hood, Texas, to provide the honor guard for his service.
Dean Caswell was the last living Marine Corps fighter ace of World War II. He joined the Corps in September 1942 at 20 years old.
Caswell flew with the Marine Fighting Squadron 221 in World War II and later served two tours during the Korean War, according to the American Fighter Aces Association. He has been credited with shooting down seven enemy aircraft in aerial combat.
Caswell was 100 years old when he died at his home in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 21.
Samuel Sandoval was one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers, a group of communications specialists who used their native language to create and maintain an unbreakable code during World War II.
The Code Talkers participated in every assault the Marines conducted in the Pacific, sending thousands of messages on Japanese troop movements and battlefield tactics. Their roles were highly classified — the Code Talkers could not discuss the mission until it was declassified in 1968.
Sandoval served five combat tours and was honorably discharged in 1946. He died on July 29, 2022, at 98 years old.
Marine veteran George Booth was drafted during World War II and eventually became a cartoonist for the Marine magazine Leatherneck.
After his service, Booth worked as an art director and later became a cartoonist for The New Yorker, where he drew cartoons for 50 years, according to his obituary. He received a lifetime achievement award from the National Cartoonists Society in 2010.
Booth was 96 years old when he died in New York City on Nov. 1, 2022.
Hiroshi Miyamura was one of the last surviving Medal of Honor recipients of the Korean War.
Miyamura was the son of Japanese immigrants who joined the U.S. Army during World War II — after the federal government lifted restrictions on Japanese Americans serving. After the war, Miyamura continued to serve in the Army Reserves.
Miyamura was called into action during the Korean War. When his company came under attack on April 24, 1951, he ordered his squad to retreat while he stayed behind and continued to fight, buying time for his men to evacuate. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war for two years and four months. When Miyamura was released, President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented him with the Medal of Honor. It had been secretly awarded while he was still a prisoner of war.
Miyamura was 97 years old when he died at his home in Phoenix, Arizona, on Nov. 29, 2022.
Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley saved the lives of Marines under his command in Hue City, Vietnam in 1968.
Canley and his Marines helped fight off multiple attacks while patrolling the streets in Hue. He rescued more than 20 of his fellow Marines by carrying them to safety. After his commanding officer was wounded, Canley took command and led the Marines through battle.
He was originally awarded the Navy Cross, but President Donald Trump presented Canley with the Medal of Honor in 2018 after a public push for his medal to be upgraded. He was the first living Black Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Canley died on May 11, 2022, after a decade-long battle with cancer. He was 84 years old.
Former Army Sgt. Joel Gomez had been living with quadriplegia since he was injured while serving in Iraq nearly two decades ago.
Gomez was on a combat mission to capture enemy soldiers in 2004 when the armored vehicle he was riding in plunged into the Tigris River. His spine was broken in two places.
Gomez had to go to a nursing home in October when his caregiver had to return home to Mexico to deal with an immigration issue. There, he developed pneumonia, which contributed to his death.
Gomez died in Illinois on Nov. 22, 2022. He was 42 years old.