In mid-1943 James
Megellas, known as “Maggie” to his fellow paratroopers, joined the 82nd Airborne
Division, his new “home” for the duration. His first taste of combat was in the
rugged mountains outside Naples.
In October 1943,
when most of the 82nd departed Italy to prepare for the D-Day invasion of
France, Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, the Fifth Army commander, requested that the
division’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Maggie’s outfit, stay behind for
a daring new operation that would outflank the Nazis’ stubborn defensive lines
and open the road to Rome. On 22 January 1944, Megellas and the rest of the
504th landed across the beach at Anzio. Following initial success, Fifth Army’s
amphibious assault, Operation Shingle, bogged down in the face of heavy German
counterattacks that threatened to drive the Allies into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Anzio turned into a fiasco, one of the bloodiest Allied operations of the war.
Not until April were the remnants of the regiment withdrawn and shipped to
England to recover, reorganize, refit, and train for their next mission.
Megellas parachuted into Holland along with the rest of the 82d Airborne as
part of another star-crossed mission, Field Marshal Montgomery’s vainglorious
Operation Market Garden. Months of hard combat in Holland were followed by the
Battle of the Bulge, and the long hard road across Germany to Berlin.
Megellas was the
most decorated officer of the 82nd Airborne Division and saw more action during
the war than most. Yet All the Way to
Berlin is more than just Maggie’s World War II memoir. Throughout his
narrative, he skillfully interweaves stories of the other paratroopers of H
Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The result is a remarkable account
of men at war.
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