A crowd of patriotic Americans waving flags lined the sidewalks outside of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans this week for a very special occasion. They were waiting to cheer on the oldest living survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor who was marking his upcoming 105th birthday.
Joseph Eskenazi, who survived Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is set to turn 105 on January 30th. Eskenazi currently resides in Redondo Beach, California. He traveled to the New Orleans museum to be a part of a celebration with seven other surviving veterans of the war. The other present veterans, all well into their 90s, represented the Army, Navy, and Marines.
See a video of news coverage detailing the event below.
“It feels great,” Eskenazi told reporters who were at the event. The decorated veteran also got to celebrate at the museum with his 5-year-old great-grandson and his 21-month-old great-granddaughter.
“I’m glad to be alive at this stage, 105 years old,” the veteran said, “It’s really quite an honor to be with [the other veterans] because they really serve their country very well. You heard their stories and I was part of it.”
The veterans were able to visit the World War II museum on behalf of the Soaring Valor Program, Gary Sinise’s charitable foundation dedicated to providing aid to World War II veterans and their families. The Soaring Valor Program’s website stated, “We’re bringing World War II veterans and their guardians to New Orleans to tour The National WWII Museum built in their honor. Their experience includes entertainment, celebratory meals, and community building with their fellow heroes. Students who accompany our veterans carry on their stories with a new appreciation for the sacrifices made by an entire generation.”
Retired Colonel Peter Crean and Vice President of Education and Access at the National World War II Museum said, “This is their museum. This is a World War II veteran’s museum. We exist for them, and being able to have seven of them here at the same time is just a really special day for all of us.”
WFMY News2 reported on Eskenazi’s heroic feats from the attack on Pearl Harbor:
Eskenazi was a private first class in the Army when the attack occurred. His memories include being awakened when a bomb fell — but didn’t explode — near where he was sleeping at Schofield Barracks, reverberating explosions as the battleship USS Arizona was sunk by Japanese bombs, and machine gun fire from enemy planes kicking up dust around him after he volunteered to drive a bulldozer across a field so it could be used to clear runways.
Eskenazi recalling the memory, stated, “I don’t even know why — my hand just went up when they asked for volunteers. Nobody else raised their hand because they knew that it meant death. … I did it unconsciously.”
The veterans all lined up for pictures around different exhibits of World War II aircraft and Higgins boats, that were designed for beach landings. In one photograph, they are all together holding signs with their names, the division of the military which they represented, and a photograph of themselves from World War II.
Note: Featured Image is screenshot from embedded video.
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