GREENVILLE, N.C. — While the United States 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.

More than three million Americans served in the US 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 US population, military service overall has become less common over time.

The number of veterans in the US 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 US population of veterans boomed in the middle of the 20th century, with the introduction of a military draft in 1940 and the beginning of US 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.

When broken out by conflict, the decreases in the veteran population become even more evident.

World War II veterans totaled around 500,000 in the US 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 US but large states such as California, Florida and New York have the largest total counts of WWII veterans.

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 North Carolina, 7.2% of the population aged 85 or older served during World War II. Here is a summary of the data for North Carolina:

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 7.2%
  • WWII veteran share of the total veteran population: 2.1%
  • Total WWII veterans: 13,682
  • Total veteran population: 654,365

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

Below are the top 15 states for WWII veterans, per Porch.com.

USS Wisconsin Battleship (BB-64) in Norfolk, Virginia, sunset

Photo Credit: LorraineHudgins / Shutterstock

15. Virginia

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 8.5%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 1.9%
  • Total WWII veterans: 12,672
  • Total veteran population: 674,242

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

14. Missouri

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 8.5%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 2.8%
  • Total WWII veterans: 11,083
  • Total veteran population: 391,513

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

13. Pennsylvania

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 8.6%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 4.0%
  • Total WWII veterans: 29,198
  • Total veteran population: 731,411

Photo Credit: Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock

12. Rhode Island

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 8.6%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 4.3%
  • Total WWII veterans: 2,233
  • Total veteran population: 52,128

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11. Nevada

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 8.7%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 1.9%
  • Total WWII veterans: 3,957
  • Total veteran population: 205,659

Photo Credit: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

10. Delaware

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 8.7%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 2.5%
  • Total WWII veterans: 1,630
  • Total veteran population: 65,065

Photo Credit: Rosamar / Shutterstock

9. Ohio

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 8.7%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 3.3%
  • Total WWII veterans: 22,627
  • Total veteran population: 685,905

Photo Credit: turtix / Shutterstock

8. New Mexico

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 8.8%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 2.6%
  • Total WWII veterans: 3,661
  • Total veteran population: 141,558

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7. Washington

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 9.0%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 2.4%
  • Total WWII veterans: 12,364
  • Total veteran population: 517,912

Photo Credit: Charles Knowles / Shutterstock

6. Idaho

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 9.4%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 2.4%
  • Total WWII veterans: 2,719
  • Total veteran population: 115,549

Photo Credit: Loud Canvas / Shutterstock

5. New Hampshire

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 9.4%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 3.0%
  • Total WWII veterans: 2,821
  • Total veteran population: 93,326

Photo Credit: Mihai_Andritoiu / Shutterstock

4. Montana

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 9.8%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 2.4%
  • Total WWII veterans: 2,086
  • Total veteran population: 85,401

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

3. Maine

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 9.8%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 3.3%
  • Total WWII veterans: 3,390
  • Total veteran population: 101,652

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

2. Utah

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 9.9%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 3.0%
  • Total WWII veterans: 3,602
  • Total veteran population: 120,198

Photo Credit: Robert Crum / Shutterstock

1. Oregon

  • WWII veteran share of the 85+ population: 10.0%
  • WWII veterans share of the total veteran population: 3.2%
  • Total WWII veterans: 8,807
  • Total veteran population: 273,946