Pearl Harbor’s local vet arrives at the National WWII Museum – Orange County Register in time for the 105th anniversary and rousing tribute

Joseph Eskenazi, made it safely to the National WII Museum in New Orleans after his two-day Amtrak trip from Los Angeles’ Union Station.

“It feels great,” Eskenazi told the Associated Press after posing for photos with his great-grandson, who will soon be 5, his 21-month-old great-granddaughter, and six other World War II veterans, all in their ’90s.

He was welcomed on Wednesday morning, June. 11, from flag-waving fans and appraisers who lined up outside the museum to wish him a happy 105th birthday. Eskenazi traveled to New Orleans as part of the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Soaring Valor Program, which helps bring WII veterans from around the country to the National Museum.

During their stay at the museum, Eskenazi and eight other Southern California veterans will chronicle their memories of World War II with a foundation-sponsored historian.

Eskenazi, who will be 105 on January 30, was just 23 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Still, not a day goes by that he doesn’t wake up and think of the young Americans killed in the attack, Eskenazi said as he departed Union Station on Friday, Jan. 6.

“What bothered me the most is seeing these wonderful people go to another world without a chance to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a moment of sadness that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

More than 2,403 Americans died in the attack, including 68 civilians.

Eskenazi was a private first class sleeping at Schofield Barracks on the morning of December 7, 1941. He was startled by the sound of the first bombs going off on the USS Arizona, which was about 18 miles inland from his barracks.

When its captain asked for a volunteer to help clear the airfield next to the port, Eskenazi’s hand was the first and only one to shoot up.

While bulldozing across the open field, he survived being fired upon by a deadly Japanese Zero fighter jet. The machine gun bullets kicked up dirt around Eskenazi but fortunately missed their target.

Eskenazi will tell this story among other war memoirs in the museum. These records are preserved in the museum’s oral history archives for generations to remember the bravery and sacrifice of men like Eskenazi.

World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, center, who at 104 years and 11 months is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, sits with other Pearl Harbor veterans at an event marking his upcoming 105th birthday celebrating at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, January 11, 2023. Left to right are Wallace Johnson, Gordon Wilson, Eskenazi, Billy Hall and Tony DiLisa. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, center, who at 104 years and 11 months is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, sits with other Pearl Harbor veterans at an event marking his upcoming 105th birthday celebrating at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, January 11, 2023. Left to right are Wallace Johnson, Gordon Wilson, Eskenazi, Billy Hall and Tony DiLisa. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

In New Orleans on Wednesday, Eskenazi and his fellow veterans lined up for photos amid exhibits of World War II aircraft and Higgins boats designed for beach landings.

“Thank you guys for giving us a country to fight for,” cried veteran Billy Hall, who rose to the rank of major in the Marines after being drafted in 1941, to well-wishers.

The museum opened in 2000 as the National D-Day Museum and has since expanded in size and scope.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/11/local-pearl-harbor-vet-arrives-at-national-wwii-museum-in-time-for-105th-birthday-and-rousing-tribute/ Pearl Harbor’s local vet arrives at the National WWII Museum – Orange County Register in time for the 105th anniversary and rousing tribute

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