Emma Didlake
Emma Didlake 2
Emma Didlake at the age of 111 meeting Barack Obama.
Birth: 13 March 1904
Boligee, Alabama, USA
Death: 16 August 2015
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Age: 111 years, 154 days
Country: USA FlagUSA

Emma Didlake (13 March 1904 – 16 August 2015) was an American supercentenarian whose age is currently unvalidated by the Gerontology Research Group. She was the oldest living American World War II veteran until her death on 16 August 2015 at age 110 or 111 (see below for the age issue). She served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.[1]

Early life

Reportedly, Emma Didlake was born in Boligee, Alabama, USA in 1905.[2] However, a recent research supports the possibility of Mrs. Didlake having been born a year earlier, in 1904.[3] At a young age, Didlake and her family moved to Kentucky, where she married a coal miner in 1922 and later stayed to raise her own family.[4][5]

Military career

In 1943, when she was 38 years old and the mother of 5 children, Didlake enlisted in the WAAC. She told the San Antonio Express-News that she joined the Army because she "wanted to do different things." [6] She served stateside as a private and a driver. For her service in World War II, Didlake earned the Women's Army Corps Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.[7]

After service

After leaving the service, Didlake and her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she lived until her death. Soon after moving to Detroit, Didlake joined the local NAACP chapter. In 1963, she marched alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington D.C. In 2013, Didlake was awarded the James Weldon Johnson lifetime achievement award at Detroit NAACP's 58th annual Freedom Fund Dinner.[8]

On 17 July 2015, at 110 or 111 years old, Didlake visited Washington D.C. on an honorary trip that included meeting President Barack Obama and touring historic monuments. The trip was organized and funded by Talons Out Honor Flight, a division of the Honor Flight Network.[9] At their meeting in the Oval Office, Didlake sat in her wheelchair in the same spot where foreign leaders sit when they meet the president in the White House.[10] President Obama praised Didlake for her "trailblazing" service as one of the female and African American veterans who helped to integrate the U.S. Army.[11][12]

Didlake attributed her longevity to a diet with a great deal of fruits and vegetables. Each day, she would also eat golden raisins that she had soaked in vodka overnight.[13]

Death and legacy

About a month after visiting the White House, Didlake fell ill. She died in Detroit, Michigan, USA, on 16 August 2015 at 110 or 111 years old. She is survived by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.[14]

On 19 August 2015, President Obama issued the following statement to honour Didlake's death:

"Emma Didlake served her country with distinction and honor, a true trailblazer for generations of Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country. I was humbled and grateful to welcome Emma to the White House last month, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Emma’s family, friends, and everyone she inspired over her long and quintessentially American life."[15]

After Didlake's death, the oldest known veteran of World War II was Frank Levingston.[16]


  1. "VFW Magazine June/July 2015 Page 44". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  2. "White House Hosts 110-Year-Old World War II Veteran". 2015-08-17. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  4. "Oldest living veteran is a 110-year-old black woman". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  5. "VFW Magazine June/July 2015 Page 44". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  6. "VFW Magazine June/July 2015 Page 44". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  7. "President Obama Meets With Emma Didlake, Oldest Living U.S. Veteran". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  8. "110-year-old veteran, and Alabama native, to meet Obama". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  9. "Honoring Our Nation's Oldest Veteran, Emma Didlake". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  10. "Emma Didlake: Army driver in the Second World War who met Barack Obama as the United States' oldest known veteran". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  11. "Oldest living veteran is a 110-year-old black woman". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  12. "110-Year-old veteran Emma Didlake honored by President Obama". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  13. "Oldest living veteran is a 110-year-old black woman". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  14. "Oldest known U.S. veteran Emma Didlake dies -". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  15. UTC, Marcus Gilmer2015-08-17 20:38:08. "Emma Didlake, America's oldest known veteran, dies at 110". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  16. "America's oldest known veteran, Emma Didlake, dies at 110". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
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