Supercentenarians are often referred to as “living history.” However, not all history is peaceful. The world has witnessed countless wars. Many countries reserve a day to honor the sacrifices of the soldiers who protected their fellow citizens. Some countries call it Remembrance Day. Others call it Armistice Day. In the United States, it is called Veterans Day, and it is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, commemorating the end of World War I.
This Veterans Day, LongeviQuest is proud to feature four supercentenarian veterans from around the world to celebrate their bravery and longevity. They survived war and went on to live long, healthy, peaceful lives.
Did you know that the first supercentenarian in recorded history was a military veteran who fought under Napoleon?
Geert Adriaans Boomgaard was born in the Netherlands in 1788. As a young man, he was part of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Armée. Marching eastward alongside the general, Boomgaard fought in the invasion of Russia. He personally witnessed the disastrous impact of the Russian winter on his comrades. Boomgaard was among the tens of thousands of soldiers who retreated from Russia, starving and freezing but moving with haste back to safety.
Nearly a million people are estimated to have died during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, but Geert Boomgaard was one of the survivors. And survive he did. He reached 100 years old in 1888 and his portrait circulated throughout the Netherlands. Each of his subsequent birthdays was widely celebrated by his countrymen. Even within his lifetime, he was recognized as the first person in human history to ever reach the age of 110.
Visit Geert Adriaans Boomgaard’s Directory Profile here to learn more about this veteran.
The longest-lived veteran of any military force, Emiliano Mercado del Toro was born in Puerto Rico in 1891. Mercado’s experience with war began early in his life. In 1898, shortly before his 7th birthday, Mercado witnessed the invasion of Puerto Rico by American troops, part of the Spanish-American War. After the conclusion of the war, Puerto Rico fell under the control of the United States.
Mercado, or “Don Emiliano,” was enthusiastic about his new national affiliation. Drafted into service near the end of World War I, he was prepared to deploy to Europe. However, this proved unnecessary as the war ended before he completed training. Still, because he heeded the call to serve, Mercado was recognized throughout his life as one of America’s most celebrated military veterans. On the 75th anniversary of the armistice which ended World War I, Mercado was presented a medal by US President Bill Clinton.
Mercardo later reached the age of 115 and became the world’s oldest person, one of the relatively few men to ever hold this title. To this day, he remains the third oldest man to have ever lived. He is also the all-time longevity recordholder for Puerto Rico.
Visit Emiliano Mercado del Toro’s Directory Profile here to learn more about this veteran.
The longest-lived man in British history, Henry Allingham bore witness to some of the crucial moments of World War I. As soon as war broke out, Allingham rushed to enlist. His initial assignment was with the Royal Naval Air Service, a new concept in 1915 when aircraft had not yet been adopted for commercial use. After training, Allingham began working with aircraft maintenance, helping to pioneer aerial combat operations. Later in life, Allingham vividly remembered King George V visiting his aircraft maintenance station, though he was disappointed to have narrowly missed a chance to speak with the king.
Allingham was later assigned to the HMT Kingfisher, which was among the first naval vessels in world history to be equipped with an on-board aircraft, in this case a Sopwith Schneider. Aboard Kingfisher, Allingham was part of the Battle of Jutland, a major naval battle involving 250 combat ships between Britain and Germany. He later recalled, “seeing shells ricocheting across the sea.”
After the war, Allingham started a family and enjoyed a long career as an engineer. To his countrymen, he was the embodiment of service and patriotism. He was honored as the last surviving founding member of the Royal Air Force and the oldest living man in the world. However, Allingham always maintained a humble sense of humor. Famously, he credited his longevity to, “Cigarettes, whiskey, and wild, wild women.”
Visit Henry Allingham’s Directory Profile here to learn more about this veteran.
The oldest living man in Europe, André Ludwig is a French supercentenarian with a record of extraordinary bravery in World War II. Having mobilized in 1939 as war drew near, Ludwig quickly found his way to combat. In 1940, while fighting to stop the Germans from crossing the Moselle River, Ludwig was captured and deported to Poland as a prisoner of war.
In 1942, Ludwig managed to escape from his captors in Poland. He reached Berlin before being recaptured. However, he managed to escape yet again. This time, he made it back to France and, true to form, he joined the French Resistance. After his illustrious military service, Ludwig settled into a quieter career and started a family. Today, as the oldest living man in Europe, this World War II hero is finally getting the attention he has long deserved.
Visit André Ludwig’s Directory Profile here to learn more about this veteran.
LongeviQuest Founder Ben Meyers contributed to this article.