82nd Airborne Division WWII Veteran still waiting for Medal of Honor

James Megellas has a room lined with military honors and awards.

“You lead from the front, you command from the rear,” Megellas said. “If you’re commanding troops, you’re not going to get a medal.”

The 99-year-old World War II veteran’s awards include two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, and a Distinguished Service Cross. He’s the most decorated soldier to come from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Unit. A unit that is itself a highly decorated division. Megellas is a true hero.

But Megellas does not have the Congressional Medal of Honor he feels he deserves. His actions on a particular night in January 1945 seem worthy of the nation’s highest honor. The Medal of Honor is the highest award for bravery that the United States can aware it service women and men. It is only awarded to those who have performed outstanding acts of courage.

Megalla and others believe that he should be awarded his nation’s highest honor because of his actions on one memorable night , during the campaign to liberate Europe.

The 82nd Division were in Belgium and the Nazi War Machine was advancing.

“I was loaded with all the ammunition that I could carry,” he remembers of the night when he took out a 50-ton Nazi tank on his own.

When he saw a German tank approaching, Megallas took out a hand grenade and pulled the pin. “I got close enough and I flipped it over,” he said, “and it hit and it spun it around and smoked a little bit and the guy who was in the turret just went down and the turret was open.”

“I charged that tank, got out one of my hand grenades and got there close enough and dropped a hand grenade in there, inside it.”

For his bravery, Megallas received a Silver Star. His commander felt that he deserved more than that.

“‘We’re putting you in for a Medal of Honor.’ Right there he said it,” Megellas recalled. “People heard him.”

To be recommended for the highest honor is an indication of how his superiors viewed his bravery on that night. Many in his unit expected him to receive the medal.

71 years later, Megellas is still fighting for the honor. There are concerns that he may have been denied the nation’s highest military award, because of his heritage.

Senator Paul Ryan has recently lent his support after hearing Megellas’s story. The campaign to secure Megallas the Medal of Honor continues.

Read more on Megallas on the website: http://medalformaggie.com/

Ian Harvey

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