Kwajalein to celebrate the 71st anniversary of “Operation Flintlock” with the one and only veteran of the war

The Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein is going to commemorate the 71st anniversary of “Operation Flintlock”, the battle for Kwajalein Atoll. The military contractors at the site have invited the WWII veterans who fought that war to celebrate this remarkable occasion. 90 years old WWII veteran Donald Fida of Syracuse, New York is lucky enough to join this ceremony, having been invited by Doug Halbert, who is a roster manager and treasurer for the 7th Infantry Division Association. Fida fought several battles which included the battle for Kwajalein Atoll. He was in the 184th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Division.

At present there are 33 surviving military veterans who fought the war. However, Fida is the only one of those who is still physically fit. Physical fitness is one of the criteria to participate in this ceremony, because the island is not well equipped medically . One requirement is that the veterans should be able to walk, and Fida is the only veteran who can still do that.

Kwajalein Atoll is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. During WWII Kwajalein Island was captured by the Japanese armed forces. The 31st January 1944 battle was the American’s attempt to free the island from the Japanese. It also marked the first time that American soldiers had won territory captured by the Japanese.

During this battle Fida went through several brutal experiences. He told about his friend and 1st Sgt. Earl Watson who became a target of sniper fire. He said: “His head fell on my shoulder and his helmet fell on the ground.”  He stated that once he was caught by the Japanese soldiers who tortured him mercilessly. Later on he was rescued by an acquaintance who nursed him back to normal health, the reports.

After successfully fighting several wars at the end of 1945, Fida came back to Syracuse on a rail car. There he started his business in landscaping and got married and had children. He is going to attend this commemoration ceremony along with his daughter Donna Wisniewski.

Fida said: “I’m so grateful that I’m able to do this at my age and to be able to remember all of this, which is a miracle to some people.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE