All the way to Berlin: a paratrooper at war in Europe

What World War II Lieutenant Megellas's memoir lacks in narrative force and elegance it makes up for in its unvarnished contribution to the historical record. Megellas was a senior at Ripon College in Ripon, Wis. during the Pearl Harbor attack; barely six months later, he had reported for duty and soon was enlisted in the storied 82nd Airborne Division. Landing in Italy on the eve of the Anzio invasion in the fall of 1943 and fighting his way through the mountainous Italian terrain, Megellas was wounded and then hospitalized ("I'm very fortunate to be alive," he wrote in a letter home. "I'm not certain as to how many Germans I killed but in my mind the minimum is at least 10"). In September 1944, Megellas's unit parachuted into Holland to take part in the bloody Operation Market Garden, in which the Allies lost more men than they would during the Normandy invasion. Megellas's description of his unit crossing the Waal River in rowboats under point-blank German fire is harrowing; that the soldiers reached the far shore and took the German positions is nothing short of a miracle. From there, Megellas and his men proceeded into the thick of the Battle of the Bulge and onward to the Rhine, fighting as they made their way toward Germany. Just as revealing as the battle accounts are Megellas's stories of the numbing boredom that soldiers in rear positions waiting for orders to the next engagement experienced, as well as the countless small acts of bravery and the daily hardships. Foregoing the romanticized hero-worship of some wartime accounts, Megellas recalls his two years of duty in the 20th century's deadliest war with admirable restraint.