Published in The Washington Post from 1/31/2009 - 2/1/2009
WALTER E. MEGAW, JR.
Walter E. Megaw, Jr., 84, died on January 28, 2009.
Preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Jeanette. Survivors include sons, George
and Stuart Megaw; a daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Megaw; grandsons, Paul and Joshua
Megaw; and a wealth of extended family and cherished friends.
Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, February 3 at 1 p.m. at the National Funeral
Home, 7482 Lee Hwy, Falls Church, VA, where family will receive friends Monday,
February 2, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Interment in National Memorial Park, Falls Church, VA. In lieu of flowers the family
requests a donation be made in his honor to HART (Homeless Animals Rescue Team),
P.O. Box 7261, Fairfax Station, VA 22039 or via internet at www.hart90.org /
By Joe Holley Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, March 15, 2009
A LOCAL LIFE: WALTER E. 'JUG' MEGAW JR., 84
WWII Glider Jockey Eventually Settled
Down to Family, Career
Not long after graduating from Eastern High School in 1942 and even before he had
his driver's license, Walter E. "Jug" Megaw Jr. was piloting a flimsy
plywood-and-canvas glider through treacherous skies over France and Germany.
Before the widespread use of helicopter troop carriers, the job of the combat glider
pilot was to insert troops in areas where there were no landing strips, often behind
enemy lines and often at night. The job was so dangerous that Mr. Megaw and his
fellow pilots were known as "suicide jockeys," and the aircraft they flew were "flak bait."
downward on a one-way trip. Landing the craft in what was basically a controlled
crash in a farmer's potato patch or maybe a pasture, the pilot and co-pilot clambered
out of the plane with 15 or so assault troops and became combat troops themselves.
In his book, "The Glider Gang" (1977), Milton Dank described World War II glider pilots
such as Mr. Megaw as "a mixed bag: flunked-out aviation cadets; men who were too
old for flight-crew training or who could not pass the strict physical examination; ground
troops who wished to get into the Air Corps; men who wanted adventure, wanted to try
something new -- and, above all, to fly. Brawlers who detested discipline . . . eagerly
answered the call."
Mr. Megaw, a longtime Falls Church resident who died Jan. 28 at age 84, fit several of
those categories: He did, indeed, yearn to fly and hungered for adventure; he had, in
fact, washed out of fighter-pilot school; and while he wasn't a brawler, his sons agree
that he probably detested discipline when he was young.
He wasn't alone up there in the flak-filled blue. He had Hubert with him. An abandoned
mutt adopted in France, the little dog was usually burrowed inside young Jug Megaw's
Like many of his fellow pilots, Mr. Megaw had firsthand knowledge of glider mishaps.
His glider once hit the ground entangled with another, both crumpling like broken kites.
Knowing he was lucky to be alive, his thirst for adventure sated, he came home to the
District, eager to settle down and build a life for himself. Like thousands upon
thousands of other GIs, that's what he did. It was neither spectacular nor adventurous,
but it was a solid life, with, of course, a few bumps along the way. Home and family
A champion duckpin bowler, Mr. Megaw met his wife-to-be at a bowling alley. One of
the "government girls" who had come down to the District from Massachusetts,
Jeanette Januskis Megaw was a record-setting duckpin bowler in her own right. With
their two boys in tow, the Megaws spent many an evening at the Falls Church Bowling
Mr. Megaw, who as a boy played catch on Saturday afternoons with the great Slingin'
Sammy Baugh of the Washington Redskins, loved sports, and so did his wife. The
couple's honeymoon consisted of a dozen professional baseball games, with his bride
assiduously keeping score.
They bought their Falls Church home in the early 1950s for $14,000. "They raised a
family here," a son, Stuart Megaw, mentioned one morning recently as he and older
brother George boxed up decades' worth of family keepsakes. The two men, both in
their early 50s, lingered as they came across faded family photos, yellowing military
records, long-ago-written letters.
Their mother died last year and, now that their father is gone, the men must decide what
to do with shelves and cabinets groaning with photos, bobbleheads and memorabilia of
Redskins and cardinals (both feathered and St. Louis variety, since the Cardinals were
their parents' favorite team).
Mr. Megaw's entire civilian career was with the Army Map Service -- now the National
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency -- where he was a geodesist and cartographer. He
enjoyed his work and his colleagues, but the office was never paramount.
Stuart Megaw recalled that when his dad retired in the early 1980s, he announced that
there was only one thing he was going to miss: the Xerox machine.
So the old glider pilot lived his life on the ground, except for one last thrill. On the 50th
anniversary of his father's first solo flight, George Megaw arranged a lesson for him in a
restored Stearman biplane.
With Mr. Megaw, then 70, at the controls, the vintage plane looped and rolled and spun
in the bright blue skies over southwestern Virginia. The instructor turned a sickly green,
but not Mr. Megaw. Back on the ground, the old "suicide jockey" had one request. "Hey,
let's do it again!" he said, a big smile creasing his face.
On the 50th
anniversary of his
first solo flight,
Walter E. "Jug"
Megaw flew a
biplane with an
instructor in a flight
arranged by his son.