Michelle and I were blessed to host our first visitor to Kwaj, my dad. We greeted him at the airport with a home made lei and island music before giving him the grand tour via golf cart. Even though Kwajalein is rather small, it still takes a little while to gain your bearings. In short order, my dad was cruising around on his bike and exploring the island for everything it had to offer.
His first few days were a bit dreary so we used the break from usually oppressive mid-day sun to enjoy the self-guided tour of the WWII sites. Many bunkers still remain from the battle with the Japanese nearly 70 years ago, though many are beginning a stage of more rapid deterioration. Some pill-boxes help show the war time edge of Kwajalein before being added onto after the American landing.
Since I was scheduled to lead worship on the other primarily US occupied island within the atoll, Roi, my dad accompanied me on the short plane ride north to get a view of the chain of islands. Roi has even more WWII sites and relics, which were brought to life during our tour by the island archeologist, Leslie. Operation Flintlock was the second battle of the Pacific ‘Island hoping’ strategy you likely learned about in school. The first battle hadn’t gone smoothly so the landings on Roi and Kwaj provided a chance to see what the US had learned. Heavy bombardment and use of special water based incursion teams (the precursors to the Navy Seals) helped make Flintlock the textbook island assault to this day.
Since the war, Roi has been home to some of the world’s largest radars, identifying objects in space and helping to guard against foreign threats. My dad and I were lucky enough to receive a tour of the biggest radar, Altair. It weighs 1,000,000lbs and provides a wide look into space. Being an engineering mind, my dad jumped into discussions with the operators around frequencies, pulse and RF. They politely dumbed it down for me explaining that it’s like a giant microwave that would first melt your eyeballs if you got in front of it before melting the rest of you (contrary to the melting faces in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the eyes held out longer).