James Megellas

 James Megellas with Mike Elliot, Founder of AVG All Veteran Group

James Megellas with Mike Elliot, Founder of AVG All Veteran Group

James Megellas, born March 11, 1917, is a retired U.S. Army officer who commanded a platoon in Company H of the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. He is "the most decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division," having received a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star and a nomination for the Medal of Honor. Megellas was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and attended nearby Ripon College. He participated in the school's Reserve Officers' Training Corps program and, upon graduation in May 1942, received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

He first experienced combat in the mountains outside Naples, Italy, where he was wounded and hospitalized. In October 1943, while the remainder of the 82nd Airborne departed Italy to recoup before the invasion of Normandy, the 504th PIR remained behind and took part in Operation Shingle. On Jan. 22, 1944, the 504th took part in an amphibious assault at Anzio. The fighting took a heavy toll with Megellas being wounded again. Due to the losses at Anzio, the 504th did not participate in the D-Day Normandy landings, but they did parachute into the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden.

Megellas took part in the crossing of the Waal River near Nijmegen, where American forces crossed the river in flimsy boats while under heavy machine gun fire. He single-handedly attacked a German observation post and machine gun nest during the engagement. For these actions, he was awarded the U.S. military's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross, and, in December 1944, the regiment was rushed into the Battle of the Bulge.

On Jan. 28, 1945, Megellas' platoon was advancing toward Heresiarch, Belgium. Struggling through heavy snow and freezing cold, they surprised 200 Germans who were advancing out of the town. Catching the Germans largely off guard, the attack proved to be devastating, with the Americans killing or capturing a large number and causing many others to flee. As they prepared to assault the town, a German Mark V tank took aim at them. Megellas ran toward it and disabled it with a single grenade. Climbing on top of the tank, he dropped another grenade into the tank, eliminating the threat to his men. He then led his men as they cleared and seized the town with no casualties to his team. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the account of his actions was not included in the original battle reports, and he was instead awarded the Silver Star.

Throughout the war, Megellas served with Company H, 504th PIR, which he would later command. In January 1946, he led his company down Fifth Avenue in New York City in the Victory Parade. He left the active Army service that year with the rank of Captain and served an additional 16 years in the Army Reserve. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and wrote a memoir of his wartime experiences entitled “All the Way to Berlin: A Paratrooper at War in Europe.” Megellas and his wife currently live in Colleyville, Texas. Maggie was nominated for the Medal of Honor seventy years ago, it was reviewed by the Senate on 01/30/2017 and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

Vietnam Veterans of America host Operations Christmas event

Freedom Military Life Chest Donation to Veterans

Remember our new Life Chest Lifer Claude Wood? Well, The Life Chest and Claude’s story had the privilege of being featured in local newspaper The Macomb Daily by Linda May!

Read the full article here!

“Freedom Military Life Chests –- repositories for treasured memorabilia –- were recently presented to 55 veterans from the Tri-County area. They received them the day before Veterans Day at the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 9 building in Detroit.

The Life Chest company of Troy put on the program and donated the chests.

“Veterans were selected based upon their service both during and after their military time,” Mike Sand, of Fraser, said.

Macomb County vets who received chests included Al Opra, Laura Rios, Jerry Van de Vyver, Dave Trevino, Phil Gannia, Paul Palazzolo, Steven Mrozek, Tara Perez, Keith Edwards, Joe Rheker, Steven Gerebics, Robert Slavko and Therese Wrobel.

Sand received one, as did George Sheppard III.

On Veterans Day, Sheppard gave his chest to Claude Wood who is the Fraser-Reid Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6691 charter commander. Wood celebrated his 97th birthday on that day. Sheppard’s father was also a charter member of the post in 1946.

“George gifted his chest to a special friend and fellow veteran, Claude Wood. Claude is a 97-year-old World War II veteran and a 1946 charter member of the Fraser VFW Post 6691. George’s father, George Sheppard Jr., was also a charter member. Claude and George III have both dedicated their lives to supporting our military and veterans. At a surprise birthday recognition and celebration, George presented his special gift to Claude. A very emotional moment indeed,” Sand said.

The chests have pewter emblems representing each branch of the armed forces and the Great Seal of the United States.

“This is definitely a family heirloom to be passed from generation to generation, one of the finest holiday presents anyone could ask for. We cannot thank The Life Chest company enough for such a gift,” Sand said. “It was a very nice gesture on their part and I kind of look at the chest as a cross between a footlocker and a hope chest. I have put some very special things in mine such as the pen Governor Engler used to lend the State of Michigan’s support to the Michigan Vietnam Memorial Monument.

Sand’s chest contains a U.S. flag displayed by four Detroit mayors, an autographed book depicting Vietnam memorials in all 50 states, keepsakes from his parents, challenge coins, military patches, audio tapes, DVDs, and books related to Sand’s Vietnam War experiences.

“It’s sort of my personal time capsule,” he said.”


Thank you to Linda May for the great article!