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PostLast Living Confederate and Union Soldiers (Timothy Ashby, Spain, 05/20/19 11:50 am)
There were about a dozen elderly fellows during the 1950s who claimed to be Confederate veterans. All of these were debunked using military, pension, and especially census records. When I was small boy Life Magazine carried an article about the "last" Confederate veteran, Walter Williams, who died in December 1959. I kept that issue for years, not realising that Williams' clam had been debunked prior to his death (by the New York Times, among others). Nonetheless, the Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans and the state authorities proceeded with an elaborate funeral, no doubt believing that the debunking was a "Damn Yankee" smear campaign.
The last fully documented Confederate veteran was Pleasant Riggs Crump (December 23, 1847 - December 31, 1951) who served in the 10th Alabama Infantry. The last known surviving member of the Union Army was former drummer boy Albert Woolson. The last Yankee combat veteran was James Hard (died 1953) who fought as an infantryman in the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry at the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg.
Regardless of the validity of the full range of Jake Larson's experiences during World War II, I have no doubt that he is a veteran and deserves to be honoured as a "living, breathing" (as Ed Jajko says) human who had a role in rapidly receding history.
JE comments: Absolutely. No one was attempting to dishonor Mr Larson. In fact, I'm grateful that his story has brought about a fruitful WAIS discussion.
I'm still at a loss how not one of the Web pieces on Larson (prior to WAIS) raises the question of the 34th Division. A quick check of Wikipedia tells us it was in Italy during the entire Normandy campaign. And in the field of military history, there are hundreds of armchair nit-pickers only too eager to point out these types of errors. Also, how can Larson be the only survivor from a whole division? (US divisions in WWII numbered between 8000 and 30,000 personnel.) There are still over 400,000 living US veterans of the war, out of an original total of 16 million. That's roughly one in 40, which should give a minimum of 200 survivors of the 34th.