“Paratroopers never truly die-they just slip away.” – Spoken by Chaplain Micheal Krog of the 82nd Airborne’s 1st Brigade at Megellas’ graveside service at Arlington National Cemetery.

Lt. Col. James Megellas, who passed away in his sleep on April 2, 2020, at the age of 103, was interred with full military funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery on September 2, 2022. He was one of the most decorated officers to come out of the 82nd Airborne Division, earning the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts, according to a Military Officer’s Association of America (MOAA) tribute.

Friends, family members, and soldiers solemnly watch as Lt. Col. Megellas makes his way to his final resting place. US Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery

According to The Washington Post, multiple high-ranking officers were there to pay their last respects. Among these was Maj. Gen. Christopher C. LaNeve, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. Gen. James C. McConville, Army Chief of Staff, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Megellas was a son of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, born on March 11, 1917, just weeks before the United States declared war on Germany during World War I. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he was a senior at Ripon College, recalls the Fond du Lac Reporter. Megellas, who went by the nickname of “Maggie,” was part of the school’s Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) program and, upon graduation in May of ’42, received his commission as a second lieutenant in the US Army Signal Corps.

Maggie as a young lieutenant during his time in Europe. Screenshot from YouTube and American Veterans Center.

Quickly tiring of that and wanting to be a paratrooper, he put in for a branch transfer and was soon assigned to H Company, 3rd Batallion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Following his training, he found himself in Italy, where he was wounded in action. His first combat jump came during Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. In those days, according to WaPo, the “Devils in Baggy Pants,” as the 504th was known to their enemies, often jumped at heights of only 500 feet while carrying at least 80 pounds of kit and under fire.

It was in Holland that Megellas, on his own, attacked a German machine gun nest earning him the Distinguished Service Cross. Maggie also fought during the Battle of the Bulge on January 28, as explained by 82nd Infantry Division spokesman Capt. Darren Cinatl led his platoon to Herresbach, Belgium, where he faced a German Panther tank aiming at him. With no regard for his safety, Megellas ran, under fire, toward the tank, during which time he lobbed a grenade at it, halting it in its tracks. Once stopped, he climbed aboard and lobbed another grenade inside, killing the crew.

The story of how Maggie was recommended for the Medal of Honor. Video courtesy of YouTube and American Veterans Center