Marine Corps Sgt. Eugene Leonard, a World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor, took flight in a B-17 bomber on Saturday to celebrate his 99th birthday, according to Fox News.

While flying on the World War II era bomber, nicknamed "the Flying Fortress," Leonard said he felt like he was back in the 1940s, recalling memories from the Pacific.

"There was combat. We had to fly into Guadalcanal. They had control over Guadalcanal and we had to slip in with fire protection," Leonard said.

Leonard joined the Marines in 1936 and was stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was in a truck when the attack began and found cover in a scorpion infested sinkhole, according to Stars and Stripes.

Leonard later served in the Pacific theater, facing combat and surviving a gunshot wound from enemy fire. He also served in the Air Force and has worked as a mechanic for 76 years of his life.

"It makes me feel good, it makes me feel good and I know that Gene is happy," said Guy Coulombe, a friend of Leonard's and a fellow veteran.

Leonard befriended Coulombe two years ago during a monthly meeting of Pearl Harbor survivors in San Diego. Coulombe arranged the flight to cheer up his friend after Leonard recently lost his second wife.

More than 12,000 B-17s were built in a collaborative effort between Boeing, Lockheed and the now defunct Douglas Aircraft Company, according to Boeing. Most were scrapped at the end of the war, with Leonard flying on one of only a few that remain.

"Without the B-17 we may have lost the war," said Gen. Carl Spaatz, the American air commander in Europe.

Sgt. Leonard joined other Pearl Harbor survivors for the 75th anniversary this past December in Hawaii. It was his first time back on the island since he was stationed there.

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