update deskU.S. News

100th birthday celebration for Jewish World War II bomber Alfred Benjamin

The navigator flew 31 bombing missions; his children say he was lucky to live to see 20.

Alfred Benjamin at Hebrew SeniorLife in Canton, Mass., on March 28, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.
Alfred Benjamin at Hebrew SeniorLife in Canton, Mass., on March 28, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

Jewish war veteran Alfred Benjamin was honored on Saturday morning—one day before he officially became a centenarian—with a parade of police cars, fire trucks and other municipal vehicles (sirens on) circling his residence at Orchard Cove Hebrew SeniorLife in Canton, Mass.

Officials attending the festivities included State Rep. William Galvin; State Sen. Paul Feeney; and Arafat Knight, the veterans’ service officer for the town of Canton. They announced a new bill filed in Benjamin’s name, SRes174, in the Massachusetts State House, congratulating him on his 100th birthday and his life achievements. The veteran received a similar certificate from the town selectman, also presented on Saturday.

He was born on March 31, 1924, to Sam and Rose Benjamin in Boston.

Alfred Benjamin
Alfred Benjamin during World War II. Credit: Courtesy.

At age 19, he served in the U.S. military as a second lieutenant and a navigator for 31 bombing missions during World War II, striking targets in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany. He earned 10 medals for his feats, including a Purple Heart. His division hit Nazi German troops, railyards, a V-1 rocket factory and the chemical plant that manufactured the Zyklon-B poison used in the gas chambers at Nazi-run concentration camps.

During one combat mission over German lines in Belgium, enemy pilots nearly shot down his plane. Benjamin urged the crew to continue flying until reaching Allied territory out of fear that the Nazis would execute captured Jewish American soldiers.

Following his military service, Benjamin married Lorraine Bernstein in 1949. They went on to raise three sons—Ross, Cary and Evan; and enjoy six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Benjamin opened an audio-visual business in Boston and eventually wrote a play based on his wartime experiences—specifically, his sixth mission—called “In the Dark of the Night.” It was shown locally and received some praise as it made the rounds.

Alfred Benjamin Birthday Cake
Cake for Alfred Benjamin on his 100th birthday. Credit: Courtesy.

“We are so happy to be able to celebrate the 100th birthday of our father. Alfred Benjamin has lived through 100 years of amazing technological and political changes,” said his sons in a statement provided to JNS. 

Due to his flying stints during the war, they added, he was lucky to make it to 20.

Lorraine Benjamin died on Jan. 20, after 74 years together, said their children, noting that “the two of them have had a blessed life with family always at the center of their lives. We are so proud of him and grateful we can show our love to him today.”

The birthday bash, however, isn’t over. Residents plan to gather for ice-cream on Thursday (the cake came last week), according to Orchard Cove, which boasts 12 people who have reached age 100 or beyond.

Alfred Benjamin
A parade of police cars, fire trucks and municipal vehicles drove around the Orchard Cove Hebrew SeniorLife in Canton, Mass., in honor of the 100th birthday of World War II veteran Alfred Benjamin, March 30, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.
Alfred Benjamin
Alfred Benjamin. Credit: Courtesy.
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