James Megellas joined the U.S. army in May 1942 and saw action in Italy, Holland, Belgium and Germany. He took part in some of the most famous battles of the Second World War and is one of the most highly decorated members of the 82nd Airborne Division.
After joining the U.S. Army in May 1942, James Megellas wanted to see combat as quickly as possible. In October 1943, after months of training, he joined the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He first saw action with this unit in Italy where he was in charge of a platoon during battles in the Apennine Mountains and the Anzio bridgehead.
Because of the heavy losses it had suffered in Italy, his regiment stayed in England while the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division jumped into France on the 6th of June 1944 during D-Day (Operation Overlord). In September 1944 Megellas and his unit rejoined the 82nd Division during Operation Market Garden. During this operation, Megellas took part in the daring crossing of the Waal river in Nijmegen. Under murderous enemy fire the paratroopers crossed the Waal river in flimsy canvas boats, suffering heavy casualties. For his actions, Megellas was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross. After Market Garden Megellas and his unit took part in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and in the invasion of Germany where he witnessed the liberation of the Wöbbelin concentration camp at Ludwigslust.
In January 1946, Megellas led his company down Fifth Avenue in New York in the big Victory Parade. After the war he retired from active army service and was active in politics. He wrote a memoir of his wartime experiences called ‘All the way to Berlin’.
The city of Nijmegen played an important role in Operation Market Garden. With two bridges across the Waal river it was vital for the Allied advance towards Arnhem and Germany later on. On 20 September 1944 U.S. troops managed to capture both bridges and liberate the city.
One of the main objectives of Operation Market Garden was to capture the two bridges across the Waal river in Nijmegen. This task proved to be difficult. In a desperate effort to maintain the momentum, U.S. paratroopers crossed the Waal in canvas boats. Attacking from both sides, they managed to capture the bridges intact.
On 22 January 1944 the Allied forces landed at Anzio. The invasion was intended to outflank German defence forces on the Gustav Defence Line and strike directly for Rome. The operation failed and the invasion force was pinned down around Anzio until the end of May.
Operation Market Garden managed to liberate a large part of the Netherlands, but failed in its main objective: outmaneuvering the Germans with a surprise crossing of the Rhine. The Nijmegen-Groesbeek area, conquered during Market Garden, remained in Allied hands and served as a springboard for the successful Rhineland Offensive in February 1945.
The Freedom Museum is located in the beautiful green and hilly landscape of Groesbeek. The museum is close to Germany and right in the area of two of the most important operations on the Western Front during WW2: Market Garden and Veritable.
The longest Day 6 June 1944 entered history under the now legendary name of D-Day, the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy. It was the most dramatic part of Operation Overlord, that marked the beginning of the liberation of