Vet recounts his WWII experience at Normandy - 8 News NOW

Vet recounts his WWII experience at Normandy

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LAS VEGAS -- On Memorial Day, attention is turned to those who have served their country and paid the ultimate price. One Las Vegas veteran, 90-year-old James Agati, was one of the fortunate ones to return from World War II. He witnessed a piece of history that will celebrate its 70th anniversary this year.

While most Americans are spending the holiday off work, James Agati is hunched over a pair of shoes at Mandalay Bay resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
"I don't think I have a title here. I'm just a shoe shiner. In the Navy I was "boatswain's mate" when I came out, Agati said.

More than 70 years ago, Agati enlisted in the Navy.

"I preferred it over being in the Army where you have to live in a foxhole. And I know how to swim," he said.

Knowing how to swim came in handy because his first ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic by the Germans.

"They sank seven out of 16 ships at 1 o'clock in the morning, pitch black."

Military life didn't get any easier as his second ship took him to Normandy Beach just in time for D-Day

"There was so much firing going on. So much firing going on, that my knees were shaking."

His coworkers at Goodfellas Shoe Shine call him "Omaha Beach Jim." Agati credits his hard work ethic for making him the number one shoe shiner in the company.

"I want to be number one. I was number one on the ship," he said.

It's a profession he started during the Depression era. At 9-years-old, he was shining shoes with his brother on the subways of New York.

"The money we made we gave to our mother. That was groceries for the week," he said.

Along the way, he owned businesses and worked different jobs, but at 90, he's satisfied to offer the best shoe shine in the business and maybe a story or two.

"I'm going to keep working. I'm not going to quit and I tell everybody the same thing. Don't quit because when you die, you're not going to work anymore."

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