With the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2021, the U.S. entered its first period of relative peace in two decades. While the U.S. continues to engage in limited military operations in the Middle East and other parts of the world, the drawdown of major military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan closed a major chapter in the nation’s military history.
Ultimately, more than 3 million Americans served in U.S. military operations in the 20 years following the September 11 attacks. But while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan added a substantial number of veterans to the U.S. population, military service overall has become less common over time. The number of veterans in the U.S. has declined by more than one-third since 2000, from 26.4 million to less than 18 million, and that decline is expected to continue in future decades.
The U.S. population of veterans boomed in the middle of the 20th century, with the introduction of a military draft in 1940 and the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II the following year. In 1940, only 9% of adults had served in the military, but just one decade later, that figure had more than quadrupled to 37%. Between veterans of WWII, the Korean War in the 1950s, and the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the share of adult veterans peaked at 44% in 1970. Since then, however, the share of veterans has declined each decade. The draft was ended in 1973, and over time, the aging and passing of older generations of veterans has reduced the percentage of former service members.
When broken out by conflict, the decreases in the veteran population become even more evident. From 2010 to 2020, the total population of veterans in the U.S. declined by nearly 5 million, from 22.6 million to 17.8 million. The ranks of Vietnam and Korean War veterans each dropped by more than 1.5 million over that span, while the decline for World War II veterans totaled more than 2 million. These declines have reduced the overall population of veterans even as the number of veterans from the Gulf War and Post-9/11 wars has grown.
World War II veterans totaled around 500,000 in the U.S. in 2020, and the Census Bureau estimates that by 2030, only 8,000 WWII veterans will remain. These veterans live in every state in the U.S., but large states like California (53,807), Florida (48,220), and New York (31,730) have the largest total counts of WWII veterans. But as a share of the over-85 population, many smaller states have higher proportions of World War II veterans, with as many as 10% of their oldest citizens having served in the war.
The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. To determine the states with the most World War II veterans, researchers at Porch calculated the World War II veteran share of the 85-and-over population. In the event of a tie, the state with the greater World War II veteran share of the total veteran population was ranked higher.
The analysis found that in Utah, 9.9% of the population aged 85 or older served during World War II. Out of all states, Utah has the 2nd largest share of WWII vets in its 85-and-over population. Here is a summary of the data for Utah:
- WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 9.9%
- WWII veteran share of the total veteran population: 3.0%
- Total WWII veterans: 3,602
- Total veteran population: 120,198
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 7.7%
- WWII veteran share of the total veteran population: 2.9%
- Total WWII veterans: 512,607
- Total veteran population: 17,835,456
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Porch’s website: https://porch.com/advice/states-with-most-world-war-ii-veterans