Medal of Honor Long Overdue for 82nd Airborne's Most Decorated Officer
In this piece for Real Clear Defense, EWI's Chief Operating Officer William J. Parker III writes about the courageous activities of LTC James “Maggie” Megellas who is under consideration for the Medal of Honor.
More than 57 million people have served in the U.S. Military throughout our history. Less than 3,500 of those 57 million have received the Medal of Honor. Of the 3,500 recipients, nearly half were awarded the medal during the Civil War when the Medal of Honor was the only military award available to recognize heroic actions. This highest award for valor in action against an enemy force is rightfully and carefully guarded. And we should continue to take great care to award the medal only to those exceptionally rare patriots who have met the stringent requirements delineated in 10 U.S.C. Maggie Megellas did just that!
LTC James “Maggie” Megellas is about to turn 99 and is the most decorated officer in the history of the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division. The documentary film entitled Maggie’s War depicts his valor during WWII. If that doesn’t drive you to ask why this man hasn’t received our nation’s highest military honor, then read, All The Way to Berlin depicting his fierce combat experiences from 1943-1945 in the famed battles of Anzio, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. For his actions, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, two silver stars, two bronze stars, and two purple hearts. And while these awards express our nation’s appreciation for his actions, we fall short of full and appropriate recognition of this living American legend.
An American Hero
LTC Megellas was wounded during a fierce battle in the deep snow of the mountains outside Naples, Italy in October of 1943. Two months later he took part in the brutal amphibious landing in Anzio where he was wounded for a second time. In September of 1944, he parachuted into the heavily defended Netherlands during Operation Market Garden. Megellas later crossed the Waal River on the outskirts of Nijmegen under exceptionally heavy machine gun fire. In another battle, he personally attacked a machine gun nest and German observation post, shooting his machine gun while carrying a wounded soldier over his shoulder. In December of 1944, Maggie was on the point during the inchoate stages of the Battle of the Bulge. In 1945, after his platoon had entered Belgium through heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures, his company of less than 30 men attacked and defeated over 200 heavily armed Germans. During the assault of Herresbach, Belgium, Maggie charged (on foot) a German Mark V tank that was firing at his men. After disabling the tank with a hand grenade, then climbed upon the tank and killed the tank’s crew. Maggie Megellas spent two straight years of his life in brutal combat, conducting heroic acts to save his soldiers and defeat America’s enemies.
First, this award is simply long overdue. Second, while Maggie stands erect enjoying the physical stature and mental agility exceeding that of most fifty year olds, time catches up to all of us—even centurion war heroes. Third, President Obama has demonstrated his willingness to correct previously passed-over recipients when the records show they deserve appropriate recognition. In March of 2014, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Most of these recipients were originally passed over, according to a White House press release, due to ethnicity and race discrimination. Maggie, like those men honored in 2014, is a special minority—a courageous Greek-American who took action to protect his fellow soldiers and defend this great nation. Fourth, both the House of Representatives and the US Senate have submitted resolutions for Maggie to receive the Medal of Honor. HR 2082 and S 993 were both introduced on May 21, 2015.
Maggie charged a German Panzer tank while he was on foot running through snow and ice. He crossed a river to fight our enemies under excruciating fire during daylight hours. He jumped into the Netherlands under violent conditions…and much more—because that is what his nation needed. It is time to repay this man and all the men and women he represents back by issuing him the Medal of Honor now!
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