The National World War II Museum in New Orleans was prepared to stage an expensive gala honoring World War II veterans on Wednesday. People carrying flags gathered outside the venue to honor the oldest living veteran of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The major purpose of the gathering was to celebrate 105-year-old Joseph Eskenazi of Redondo Beach, California. It feels amazing, Eskenazi told reporters.
Eskenazi is now a great-grandfather, and he was joined at the celebration by his 5-year-old great-grandson and 21-month-old great-granddaughter.
Eskenazi, who will be 105 on January 30th, boarded an Amtrak train in California on Friday to travel to New Orleans for the celebration. Other veterans from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps also flew in for the occasion.
All of this was made possible by actor Gary Sinise’s Soaring Valor Program, a philanthropic foundation committed to assisting veterans and first responders. The initiative organizes museum visits for WWII veterans and their guardians.
When the assault on Pearl Harbor occurred, Eskenazi was a private first class in the Army. He recalls the incident well, remembering being awakened up by a bomb dropping close to where he was resting yet failing to explode.
He also remembered the Schofield Barracks, which was filled with explosions when the battleship USS Arizona was sunk by Japanese explosives. Even though enemy planes’ machine guns were blowing up dust around them, the veteran volunteered to drive a bulldozer through a field so it could be cleared and used as a runway.
He didn’t know why but he simply raised his hand when they asked for volunteers, Eskenazi recalled. No one else raised their hand since they understood that it meant death. He did it unintentionally.
He was a serviceman at the Army’s Schofield Barracks on December 7, 1941, when the attack that dragged the United States into the war started. Approximately 2,400 troops were killed.
Today, Eskenazi and other veterans visited the museum and took photographs with different World War II planes as well as the Higgins boats, which were particularly intended for beach landings.
Thank you for giving them a nation worth fighting for, said veteran Billy Hall, who rose to the rank of major in the Marines after enlisting in 1941.
What a magnificent occasion to be a part of. We wish everyone of these veterans a long and healthy life and thank them for their service.