Nearing his 105th birthday, Redondo Beach resident Joseph Eskenazi is ready for a quiet life.
On Friday night, Jan. 6, he certainly followed him to Union Station in Los Angeles, where a crowd gathered to cheer him on his Amtrak voyage to New Orleans. Soaring Courage Program.
“I don’t want to think that there are a lot of fine young people in their 20s who were all killed without warning,” Eskenazi said, looking back at Pearl Harbor at the send-off. “What bothers me most is seeing wonderful people go to another world without ever having the opportunity to enjoy this world.”
Eskenazi was a private first class of C Company, 804th Engineer, and survived a strafing by Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters on the day of the attack. More than 2,400 of his Americans, including civilians, had their misfortunes and lost their lives.
“I wake up every morning and think of the wonderful young people who were killed in vain,” he added.
With the living memory of World War II increasingly fading from the nation’s collective conscience, it is estimated that fewer than 500,000 World War II veterans are still alive today. Initiatives like the Soaring Valor Program seek to recognize the bravery of veterans and remind them of their immeasurable sacrifice. Since its inception in 2013, the program has brought more than 1,500 World War II veterans to the National World War II Museum, said Tom Gibbs, education manager at the Gary Sinise Foundation. says.
Eskenazi, who is traveling by train rather than by plane for health reasons, was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on Sunday night. Soldiers have joined. They fly to join his Eskenazi at a museum in New Orleans with his four additional World War II veterans based in Southern California.
At the Big Easy, historians sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation will document the oral histories of all nine veterans’ war experiences so that they can be preserved for future generations.
The attack on Pearl Harbor happened more than 80 years ago, but Eskenazi still remembers it like it was yesterday.
At 7:55 am on December 7, 1941, the sound of Japanese bombers woke him from his sleep.
He and his fellow soldiers rush out of their bunks to witness the horrific sight of Zeros zooming overhead.
Eskenazi felt the vibrations from a Japanese torpedo bomb detonating on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, 17 miles from his barracks inland.
Only Eskenazi’s hand flew out when his captain called for volunteers to help clear the airfield adjacent to Pearl Harbor.
While following the captain’s orders to retrieve the bulldozer, he notices a black dot on the horizon. Suddenly the black dot approached and bullets began raining down on him.
“When people call my grandpa a hero, he kind of corrects me, ‘Actually, I’m not a hero. I’m a survivor, but in reality he is,'” granddaughter Marcela Mastrangelo said. Told. “He knew the mission was dangerous. My grandpa’s hand went up first, so to me it’s a hero.”
Fortunately, Eskenazi survived being strafed by Zero that day. Now, more than 80 years after facing his death, Eskenazi is preparing to celebrate his 105th birthday on January 30th.
When he boarded the train to New Orleans, he was surprised by an early birthday cake.
Many family theories float around as to the secret to his longevity.
His granddaughters Marcella Mastrangelo and Raquel Mastrangelo Nassif said it was because of his active and healthy lifestyle, strict schedule, staying up to date and wanting to learn new skills like working with an iPhone. It is said that it is due to his desire to
“He was a really carefree, young-minded, energetic guy who loved sailing and traveling. He hated having his license revoked at 98. He still wants to drive.” ‘ said Marcella.
“He’s like, ‘Hey, it’s just because of my vision, not because I can’t drive.
His daughter, Belinda Mastrangelo, attributes his longevity in part to a Mediterranean diet he inherited from a Spanish-Greek family who immigrated to the United States from Turkey in 1911.
Eskenazi was born in New York in 1918 and also lived in Mexico City for several years. This is where he met his wife Victoria Farage after the war. The two he married in 1947, and Redondo he settled on the beach, where he raised Belinda.
Belinda also credits Eskenazy’s close relationship with Victoria to his longevity as the two were happily married and best friends for 74 years. Much of his recent years have been devoted to caring for Victoria, who passed away in June 2021.
“He never wanted to leave her side. He always held her hand. She told me,” said Belinda. “He was always so sweet to her.”
After Victoria’s death, Eskenazi found a new community and a new purpose in telling his story as America’s oldest survivor of Pearl Harbor. It was the subject, said Belinda.
“Now this brings him joy and connects him with the world,” said Raquel. “Through this ‘hero recognition,’ I think he’s gained new people to talk to and friends in his old age.”
Eskenazi also inspired his grandson Mike Mastrangelo, who carries on Eskenazi’s military legacy by serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Navy. will be recorded.