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WASHINGTON – On Wednesday Rep. Tom Petri introduced H.R. 795, legislation to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to former Fond du Lac resident James Megellas.

Jim Megellas served with great distinction in World War II, especially during the Battle of the Bulge when he single-handedly took on a number of German soldiers and led his unit to success in their part of the battlefield, Petri said. All of his colleagues who served when he engaged in his World War II heroism have supported his getting the Medal of Honor, and – he has just about every other medal in the book, frankly. And this would be a great capstone to his career.

Petri explained that on January 28, 1945, then Lt. Megellas led his platoon of the 82nd Airborne Division on a surprise and devastating attack on a much larger advancing German force, killing and capturing a large number of the enemy and causing others to flee. In an act of fearless courage, Megellas single-handedly destroyed an attacking German Mark V tank with two hand-held grenades. He then led the charge of his men and seized Herresbach, Belgium.

After serving four years as a rifle platoon leader during World War II, including many combat jumps into Italy and Holland, Megellas left the active Army and served for 16 years in the Army Reserve. He retired after 20 years of service as a lieutenant colonel.

His awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Star Medals, two Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts, and he is credited with being the 82nd Airborne Divisions most decorated officer. During World War II, General James Gavin selected one 82nd officer – Lt. James Megellas – to receive the Military Order of Willhelm Orange Lanyard from the Dutch Minister of War on behalf of his division.

To this day, James Megellas continues to inspire, Petri said. In February 2006, 61 years after that momentous battle, James Maggie Megellas set foot on a battlefield with fellow 82nd Airborne Division soldiers, this time in a current theater of war – Afghanistan. He was impressed with what he saw of the paratroopers and their work. He listened to their stories of the past year of deployment and shared with them his own experiences during World War II. Maggie continues to inspire by speaking to groups across the country about his experience and is planning to observe his 90th birtday in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne troops, Petri said

Link to Congressman Petris website: Petri Calls for Recognition of Fond du Lac Hero

Audio link to Congressman Petris speech: Audio (MP3) Available

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Chaplain kuehl 90th Birthday

Posted: January 10, 2007 in Uncategorized

ON BEHALF OF HIS WW II BUDDIES IN THE 504PIR

“He was always where he was needed”. A Minister, an Airborne Chaplain, a Missionary, and a latter day Disciple who has dedicated his life to the service of the Lord.

Chaplain Kuehl had volunteered for the paratroopers knowing the risk involved. Armed only with a cross and the Bible ministering to paratroopers in combat he would go wherever his men were. He jumped with the 504 in Sicily and accompanied the troops in the fighting in the rugged Apennine Mountains of Italy to Hills 950 and 1250 where he actively assisted the wounded. Once again Chaplain Kuehl was, “where he was needed”. He recalled, “I stayed up there when battalions changed so one could go to the rear. I helped wounded down and brought up replacements. That was pure misery up there. We will never forget those long days and nights, week after week, in the rain and snow not enough to eat and the constant shelling in the Italian mountains. One day during that terrible fighting in the mountains of Italy, I was standing by a rocky trail and a Sergeant came by with no boots on, as his feet were to swollen. He had his feet bound up with rags, I said, “Sergeant, you cant go up this rugged trail like this, you need medical attention,He replied, Chaplain, I can”t go back (down), my men need me. Chaplain Kuehl assisted in a myriad of ways, helping the wounded and comforting the tired and bedraggled GIs, many still in their teens. He was everywhere, with the wounded at Battalion medical stations and ministering to the men in the evacuation hospital.

At the Anzio beachhead in February 1944, when Lt. Rivers and I with about 25 enlisted men were surrounded by the German Wehrmacht who had broken through the British 1st Guard Division and threatening to overrun the beachhead, Chaplain Kuehl was busy just to the rear of us. He wrote, “If ever we had a chance to see the caliber of our paratroopers it was during that time. Almost completely depleted of men H Company and the others would not give in, I knew you were hurting for men so I got hold of a jeep and went around the area trying to find some men, some stragglers etc. to give you help. The Jerrys spotted me and an 88 zeroed in on the jeep. I was moving pretty fast. The 88 hit just under the Jeep, lifted it up in the air broke the windshield and bent some metal but I didn’t get hit. Fortunately, the shell hit in some soft ground so that cushioned the explosion. I still can’t believe how H Company held in attack after attack.”

On September 20, 1944 while H and I Company were poised behind a high dyke on the South side of the mighty Waal River preparing to cross the river in flimsily canvas boats to capture and control the North end of two bridges, I saw Chaplain Kuehl lined up in a boat with the Battalion Commander next to me.

It was a bold, daring plan bordering on suicidal. I didn’t think it was humanly possible to make it across the River under intense fire like ducks on a pond. I honestly did not believe any of us would make it across the river and then rout enemy machine gunners positioned on a dyke 500 yards away.

Defying orders from the Regimental Commander, Chaplain Kuehl was preparing to make the river crossing with the 3rd Battalion. Chaplain Kuehl expressed his feelings; “if the men ever needed me they need me now.??? Crossing the river I could hear the Chaplain praying, “Lord they will be done” as a 20 MM blew off the head of the man next to him in the boat.

By the Grace of God, Chaplain Kuehl, unarmed, reached the opposite shore. He recalled, “There were dead and wounded in each boat. I remember one boat reached the bank and had four dead troopers draped across each other. There were dead and wounded all over the place. I carried a first aid kit and immediately began working on the wounded. While I was leaning over a trooper who had three bullet holes in the stomach, a mortar shell exploded behind me. I was ht in the back by shrapnel, knocking me down. Despite being critically wounded, the man cried out, “Chaplain, they got you too”. The men who made it bayoneted the German machine gunners that were dug in all along the riverbank. They didn’t pause, they bayoneted and bayoneted and took off for the bridge. I had never seen such bravery. It was pretty gruesome. I was proud to be the Chaplain of such brave troopers???.

From that point until the end of the war, 62 days in the frigid Battle of the Bulge, across the Rhine and Elbe Rivers in Germany. The story was the same; the Chaplain was everywhere he was needed often within range and a target of enemy fire. He was always looking after and ministering men.

In testimony to his courage with the troopers in combat he was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action, 2 Bronze Stars for Heroic Action, a Purple Heart for Wounded in Action and 3 Presidential Unit Citations as part of his Regiment the 504 PIR. This is an extraordinary recognition of bravery for an unarmed Chaplain who continuously risked his life to be with his men. It is a record of service and courage unequaled by any Army Chaplain.

After the war Delbert Kuehl returned to his hometown, Alexandria, Minnesota. In July 1946 he married Delores Johnson and together they embarked on foreign missionary service. In July 1951 they arrived in Japan with their first child (10-months old) and spent 10 years as missionaries in the service of the Lord.

Their children, Dan and Margaret are both Missionaries in France and Tim and Luann are Missionaries in South Africa. They have 13 Grandchildren who have “accepted Christ as their Savior and a number of them are preparing for Christian Service”, and a new Great Grandchild Through all this Delbert remained active in the US Army Reserves, retiring with the rank of Colonel.

On the occasion of Delbert Kuehl’s 90th Birthday, we honor and salute a truly great American patriot who we hold in reverence. A Disciple of the Lord who answered to a higher calling and devoted his life to the service of mankind.

James ‘Maggie’ Megellas

H Company 504 PIR