James “Maggie” Megellas grew up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in a family of Greek immigrants. His father was a laborer, and during the depression, Maggie worked for the CCC. Maggie was the only one in his family to attend college, and he graduated from Ripon College in 1942. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, his first inclination was to drop out and enlist, but he remained in college, completing ROTC. After completing Airborne School, he deployed to Oran, Algeria, on a Liberty ship. He joined his unit after they had already experienced combat, but found that the Soldiers “were very helpful,” getting their new Platoon Leader ready for missions. He participated in fighting at Salerno, Naples, and Anzio, being wounded several times during those actions. Due to heavy casualties in Italy, his regiment did not jump into Normandy, but he did participate in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. He served with the 82nd throughout the war, refusing promotion because he wanted to continue leading his Soldiers.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his college experiences, and his wartime service with the 82nd Airborne Division. He describes in detail many of the actions he fought in, and he reflects on those he served with.