Mahwah, NJ / June, 6 / Mahwah Patch — Nicholas Felice never saw the 50-mile stretch of French coastline Allied troops landed along to fight Nazi soldiers on June 6, 1944.
He wasn’t there, but he thinks about the 160,000 troops, many of them men no older than 20, especially on days like today, the 75th anniversary of what would be known as D-Day. He spoke about D-Day and his military service to neighbors at Brandywine Senior Living in Mahwah where he lives.
“I’m thinking about those kids, they were so young,” said Felice, a former mayor of Fair Lawn and 20-year state assemblyman. “They had 65-pound packs on their backs. Many of them drowned in the water and never touched land. The Nazis set traps and bombs in the water. Ninety percent of the first wave was killed or wounded. It took two or three waves before they never reached the shore. It’s amazing what was accomplished that day, but it had to happen.”
Felice, 92, went to enlist in the Army Air Corps immediately after graduating from high school, but had a heart murmur. He enlisted in the Army instead, serving from 1945 to 1947.
He earned a served in the Pacific theater campaign as a technical sergeant and radio operator. He knew Morse code and was an expert in radio communications.
“It is what I wanted to do and it’s what I loved to do,” Felice said.
Felice also trained soldiers who would be among the first to serve in the Korean War.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Felice also attended RCA International School and got his first-class commercial license from the Federal Communications Commission.
After World Ward II ended, Felice helped build radio stations overseas and worked on NASA’s Project Mercury. He served on a destroyer and monitored radio broadcasts to ensure astronaut Scott Carpenter was recovered safely in 1962.
Felice had a long career in local and state politics. He served on the Fair Lawn Borough Council from 1967 to 1972, was mayor from 1972 to 1974 and deputy mayor from 1974 to 1975.
He served in the State Assembly from 1982 to 2002, representing the 40th Legislative District, which Fair Lawn used to belong to until 2001 when it was moved to the 38th District.
Felice credits the successes he’s had in life to a simple philosophy.
“Just keep busy,” he said with a chuckle. “You gotta keep moving. Don’t stop.”