Maggie’s Story

In World War II Europe, we call your attention to five American soldiers who single-handedly attacked and stopped German tanks in combat. Such acts are the stuff of legend and truly “above and beyond” the call of duty! For their heroism, four men were awarded the Medal of Honor.
      However, James “Maggie” Megellas received the SILVER STAR.
The U.S. Army of WWII proved itself to be the finest and greatest fighting force ever assembled as it defeated fascism and saved the free world. However, for all its might and glory, the Army fell short in appropriately honoring one of its legendary frontline combat leaders. For reasons we cannot comprehend, Lt. Col. (Retired) James “Maggie” Megellas of CoH/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment – 82nd Airborne Division still wears a Silver Star instead of the Medal of Honor he clearly earned 68 years ago. Following are the amazing events of January 28, 1945 at Herresbach, Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge:
  • 1st Lt. James “Maggie” Megellas led his platoon through miles of knee-deep snow and bitter cold to a place near Herresbach, Belgium. Exhausted and hungry, they were making chow when legendary 504th PIR Commander Ruben Tucker ordered: “Greek (Megellas), take those two ‘cans’ (tank destroyers) and get into that town!”
  • With Megellas leading the advance toward Herresbach, ahead of the tank destroyers, they came head-to-head with a battalion-sized enemy force. With his platoon outnumbered 10 to 1, Megellas swiftly and courageously led his men, with guns ablaze, on a frontal assault into the heart of the surprised enemy creating great disorder. “We had them surrounded from the inside,” Megellas said.
  • Reports indicate that the devastating rout lasted only 10 minutes. The Airborne troopers killed over 100 and captured another 180 enemy. First Lt. Edward Sims, H Co. executive officer, reckoned the actual number of enemy dead and captured was significantly higher. Megellas himself killed 26 Germans in the firefight.
  • Megellas re-formed his men and led them into Herresbach although nearly out of ammunition. Under his skilled leadership, more enemy was killed or captured as his platoon cleared the town.
  • Megellas then positioned his platoon to defend against an expected German counter-attack and they successfully repelled three attacks and held Herresbach as the Division’s jump-off point for advance on the Siegfried Line and into Germany.
  • Remarkably, thanks to Megellas’ combat-honed instincts and intrepid leadership, his men suffered no casualties that day!
  For the above acts of valor and leadership, 1st Lt. Megellas was awarded the Silver Star. Fifty-four years after the incident, at a 1999 reunion, Col. (Retired) Sims, who initiated the Medal of Honor recommendation, was stunned to learn that his submission was downgraded to the Silver Star. Upon investigation, Sims discovered that Megellas’ most significant act of gallantry (below) was absent from the Silver Star citation. The following took place shortly after the large firefight:
  • Nearing the outskirts of town, his men were then attacked and pinned down by a German Mark V Panther tank. The tank destroyers were not in position to engage the tank. Immediately and at profound risk to his own life, Megellas charged the tank. Exposed to deadly small arms and machine gun fire, he reached the tank armed only with his Thompson submachine gun and two hand grenades. He disabled the tank’s advance with a gammon grenade. He then climbed onto the tank, dropping a fragmentation grenade into the turret hatch, destroying the tank, killing its crew and saving the lives of many of his men.
German Mark V Panther Tank    German Mark V Panther Tank The U.S. Army of WWII proved itself to be the finest and greatest fighting force ever assembled as it defeated fascism and saved the free world. However, for all its might and glory, the Army fell short in appropriately honoring one of its legendary frontline combat leaders. For reasons we cannot comprehend, Lt. Col. (Retired) James “Maggie” Megellas of CoH/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment – 82nd Airborne Division still wears a Silver Star instead of the Medal of Honor he clearly earned 69 years ago. Proposed Tank Killer Bazooka badge Following are the amazing events of January 28, 1945 at Herresbach, Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge:
  • 1st Lt. James “Maggie” Megellas led his platoon through miles of knee-deep snow and bitter cold to a place near Herresbach, Belgium. Tired and hungry, they were making chow when legendary 504th PIR Commander Ruben Tucker ordered: “Greek (Megellas), take those two ‘cans’ (tank destroyers) and get into that town!”
  • Advancing toward Herresbach, ahead of the tank destroyers, they came head-to-head with a battalion-sized enemy force. With his platoon outnumbered 10 to 1, Megellas swiftly and courageously led his men, with guns ablaze, on a frontal assault into the heart of the surprised enemy. “We had them surrounded from the inside,” Megellas said.
  • Reports indicate that the devastating rout lasted only 10 minutes. The Airborne troopers killed over 100 and captured another 180 enemy. First Lt. Edward Sims, H Co. executive officer, reckoned the actual number of enemy dead and captured was significantly higher. Megellas himself killed 26 Germans in the firefight.
  • Megellas re-formed his men and led them into Herresbach. He killed another six of the enemy as his platoon cleared the town and took more prisoners.
  • Megellas then positioned his platoon to defend against an expected German counter-attack and his men repelled that attack, holding Herresbach as the Division’s jump-off point for advance on the Siegfried Line and into Germany.
  • Remarkably, thanks to Megellas’ combat-honed instincts and intrepid leadership, his men suffered no casualties that day!
For the above acts of valor and leadership, 1st Lt. Megellas was awarded the Silver Star. Fifty-four years after the incident, at a 1999 reunion, Col. (Retired) Sims, who initiated the Medal of Honor recommendation, was stunned to learn that his submission was downgraded to the Silver Star. Upon investigation, he discovered that Megellas’ most significant act of gallantry (below) was absent from the Silver Star citation. The following took place shortly after the large firefight:
  • Nearing the outskirts of town, his men were then attacked and pinned down by a German Mark V Panther tank. The tank destroyers were not in position to engage the tank. Immediately and at profound risk to his own life, Megellas charged the tank. Exposed to deadly small arms and machine gun fire, he reached the tank armed only with his Thompson Submachine Gun and two hand grenades. He disabled the tank’s advance with a gammon grenade. He then climbed onto the tank, dropping a fragmentation grenade into the turret hatch, destroying the tank, killing its crew and saving the lives of many of his men.
    The crux of the issue had been that the Army did not consider the Panther tank destruction when it made its initial assessment in 1945 that Megellas’ actions merited the Silver Star – not the Medal of Honor. No paperwork exists that was submitted by Sims for the Medal of Honor back in 1945. The Army lost it. In response to Sims’ appeals, the Army finally conceded that the tank destruction should be included in Megellas’ valorous acts that day. However, to Sims’ shock and dismay, the Army maintains Megellas’ total actions, that now include his one-man destruction of the Panther tank, still only merit the Silver Star! The Army uses a damaging assumption to deny Megellas the medal he earned. The Army Board for the Correction of Military Records noted that Gen. Jim Gavin, the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne, was in the area at the time of Maggie’s heroism. He also signed the Silver Star citation. They therefore assumed Gen. Gavin was aware of Maggie’s destruction of the tank yet he still determined the total actions merited no more than a Silver Star! However, the medal citation issued by the Army makes no mention of the tank destruction. Nor is there even any mention of a German tank being destroyed at Herresbach in the 82nd’s After Action report of Jan 28 1945!
General Gavin was unaware of Megellas’s tank knockout!
To further our argument, an expert on Gen. Gavin noted that he was so impressed when any of his men were able to make a kill shot on a tank during his Sicilian campaign that he commissioned a special patch to be worn to honor the deed. The patch, although never becoming official, pictured a bazooka (shoulder-fired rocket launcher designed to take out tanks). Keep in mind that Megellas didn’t use a bazooka – just two grenades and his Thompson. The expert said he would “bet his own life” that had Gen. Gavin known of the single-handed tank knockout as well as the details of the knockout (in other words had he seen the full complement of paperwork filed by Sims), he would have approved the recommendation for the Medal of Honor. Gen. Gavin was known for wanting his men to be recognized and honored for their gallantry. While the Army Board attempt to have us believe that Gen. Gavin was nonchalant over the tank incident, their suggestion was not shared by the paratroopers who were with Megellas and pinned down and being advanced on by that German 50-ton killing machine. At the Army’s request, Sims provided many firsthand accounts of those involved. Sadly, neither Sims nor any of the eyewitnesses was ever contacted and only one or two survive today. The Army issued a “Memo of Consideration” to conclude its findings and justify its decision for the Silver Star. Sims never accepted those conclusions. He has carefully documented and refuted all of the Army’s arguments against his upgrade request. The Army never granted him an audience. If you wish to view the memo, click here: Memo of Consideration Sims was a highly decorated frontline combat veteran of two wars. He was personally awarded two Silver Stars. He was profoundly aware of the huge difference between the Silver Star and the Medal of Honor! After 16 years the Army continues to maintain its position regarding the medal upgrade. Therefore, it is appropriate and necessary that Congress act. Recently, H.R. 751 was launched in the House of Representatives to recommend the president award James Megellas the Medal of Honor. The sister bill in the Senate is S.238
Lt. Col. Megellas turned 100 on March 11, 2017. Please remember it is not he but Col. Sims who continued to pursue the upgrade until his passing in 2013. We, the Sims Team, continue his pursuit for justice long overdue.
The Medal of Honor brings distinction to far more than one individual. It would be a source of great pride for the men of Co. H and their families, the 504th PIR and Airborne troopers everywhere. Lastly, it would reward Col. Edward Sims for his perseverance and devotion in seeking this long overdue justice for one of his own.

Please join us in writing your Congressmen and Senators and ask them to support legislation to honor one of America’s finest close combat leaders of all time!

All The Way!

The Sims Team

   

‘STEP 2 – “SIGN PETITION”

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