Oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor marks 105th birthday

Jan 10, 2023, 8:01 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2023, 1:56 pm
World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veter...

World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, holds a photo of his younger self, at an event celebrating his upcoming 105th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

              World War II veteran Tony DiLisa, 98, participates in an event celebrating the upcoming 105th birthday of fellow veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the National World War II Museum to in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. According to the museum, DiLisa served in England and was involved in preparing for and supplying Operation Overlord and the retaking of Europe. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, is greeted as he arrives at the National World War II Museum to celebrate his upcoming 105th birthday in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, holds a photo of his younger self, at an event celebrating his upcoming 105th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, sits with fellow veterans, his great grandchildren Mathias, 4, Audrey, 1, and their grandmother Belinda Mastrangelo, at an event celebrating his upcoming 105th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Bill Stewart, 93, participates in an event celebrating the upcoming 105th birthday of fellow veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the National World War II Museum to in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. According to the museum, Stewart served in the occupation of Japan, is believed to be the youngest Living WWII veteran, and was aboard the USS Arizona as a Boy Scout when it home port was in Long Beach. He is one of the last 3 people living who were on the USS Arizona. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Harry Hammer, 94, participates in an event celebrating the upcoming 105th birthday of fellow veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the National World War II Museum to in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. According to the museum, Hammer served in the occupation of Japan and completed his "jump school" in Japan. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Billy Hall, 96, participates in an event celebrating the upcoming 105th birthday of fellow veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the National World War II Museum to in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. According to the museum, Hall enlisted in Aug of 1941 at the age of 15 and flew over 150 Dauntless dive and Avenger torpedo bomb missions as a rear tail gunner in the Pacific over Guadalcanal, Peleliu and Munda. According to the museum, he is believed to be the last living veteran who enlisted before WWII, and saw combat in WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, is greeted by staff as he arrives at the National World War II Museum to celebrate his upcoming 105th birthday in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, sits with his great grandson Mathias, 4, at an event celebrating his upcoming 105th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, center, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, sits with fellow Pearl Harbor veterans, at an event celebrating his upcoming 105th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 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, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, sits with fellow veterans and his great grandchildren Mathias, 4, and Audrey, 1, at an event celebrating his upcoming 105th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            
              World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, holds a photo of his younger self, at an event celebrating his upcoming 105th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
            World War II veteran Gordon Wilson, 99, participates in an event celebrating the upcoming 105th birthday of fellow veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the National World War II Museum to in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. According to the museum, Wilson served in the Pacific aboard the USS Lexington "The Blue Ghost". Gordon was standing right outside the bridge when it was hit by a kamikaze. He was pulled inside by another sailor just before the hit. He received a Purple Heart. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) World War II veteran Wallace Johnson, 97, participates in an event celebrating the upcoming 105th birthday of fellow veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, at the National World War II Museum to in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. According to the museum, Johnson joined the Navy in September 1941, serving on the USS Jamestown, a motor torpedo boat tender, making landings on Guadalcanal and Bougainville. He later worked on the Apollo space program with the original 7 Astronauts. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Flag-waving admirers lined the sidewalk outside the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Wednesday to greet the oldest living survivor of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor as he marked his upcoming 105th birthday.

“It feels great,” Joseph Eskenazi of Redondo Beach, California, told reporters after posing for pictures with his great-grandson, who is about to turn 5, his 21-month-old great-granddaughter and six other World War II veterans, all in their 90s.

Eskenazi turns 105 on Jan. 30. He had boarded an Amtrak train in California on Friday for the journey to New Orleans. The other veterans, representing the Army, Navy and Marines, flew in for the event.

They were visiting thanks to the Soaring Valor Program, a project of actor Gary Sinise’s charitable foundation dedicated to aiding veterans and first responders. The program arranges trips to the museum for World War II veterans and their guardians.

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.

“I don’t even know why — my hand just went up when they asked for volunteers,” Eskenazi said. “Nobody else raised their hand because they knew that it meant death. … I did it unconsciously.”

He was at the Army’s Schofield Barracks when the Dec. 7, 1941, attack began, bringing the United States into the war. About 2,400 servicemen were killed.

Eskenazi and his fellow veterans lined up for pictures amid exhibits of World War II aircraft and Higgins boats, designed for beach landings.

“Thank you guys for providing us a country that was worth fighting for,” veteran Billy Hall, a who rose to the rank of major in the Marines after enlisting in 1941, shouted to well-wishers.

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

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Oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor marks 105th birthday