Corporal Russell Owen Meade
- Unit: 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Company C
- Service Number: 20350111
- Date of Birth: January 3, 1918
- Entered the Military: February 3, 1941
- Date of Death: September 18, 1944
- Hometown: Annapolis, Maryland
- Place of Death: “The Hill” in Plasmolen, Netherlands
- Award(s): Bronze Star, Purple Heart
- Cemetery: Plot K, Row 21, Grave 22. Margraten American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands
Mentored by Mrs. Amie Dryer
Calvert High School
Russell Owen Meade, Jr. was born January 3, 1918, in Annapolis, Maryland to Russell and Ethel (Ward) Meade, who were married in Calvert County two years prior. Three years later, his sister Evelyn was born. The family of four lived with Russell Sr.’s parents on Eastern Avenue in Annapolis. As a young boy, he often played practical jokes on his sister. One time after Evelyn came home from a scary movie, Russell hid under the stairs and grabbed her ankle as she walked by.
Over the next several years, the Meades had multiple deaths in their family, including the loss of Russell Meade, Sr. in 1933. In 1936 Ethel remarried, and she and her children moved in with her new husband Arthur Hall; his three daughters Janet, Mildred, and Gloria; and Arthur’s father William Hall.
1936 also marked Meade’s expected high school graduation. While records reveal that he attended Annapolis High School, it remains unclear as to whether or not Meade graduated. Over the next four years he worked as a carpenter’s apprentice, following in the footsteps of both his father and stepfather. On February 3, 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, after previously joining the National Guard.
Corporal Meade’s hometown, Annapolis, Maryland, with its close proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, gave U.S. naval fleets easy access to the city, and the U.S. Naval Academy produced naval officers. By 1943, all branches of the military had well exceeded their numbers of those who enlisted compared to World War I. On February 3, 1941, Meade was one of over 4,000 Maryland men who enlisted. Today, Annapolis’ World War II Memorial displays the names of 6,454 military men and women from Maryland who lost their lives during this time.
Maryland’s Contribution to the War Effort
Maryland contributed to the war effort on agricultural, naval, and industrial fronts. By 1943, 300,000 people worked in the war industry. The Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore was built as one of two emergency shipyards in the country in 1941. By the time they closed in 1945, they provided work for 27,000 employees and built 384 Liberty ships, which carried over 10,000 tons of cargo overseas.
Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland medical centers trained medical professionals to assist the war effort, including women who served overseas with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy Nurse Corps.
Life on the Homefront
During the war, many people struggled with unemployment. Those who could find work lacked transportation to wartime production plants. In the agricultural industry, there was the need for soil conservation as overproduction in the fields led to barren fields and weak yields. Shortages in labor and materials developed as well.
Despite these issues, the government provided security for people on the homefront. Humanitarian and volunteer organizations continued business as usual. The Maryland State Guard had over 3,000 men on duty, assisting in programs such as Air-Raid Wardens and emergency medical crews.
Russell Meade began his military training on May 9, 1941, at Fort Meade, Maryland. After Fort Meade, he continued to train with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where the 505th Parachute Infantry joined the 82nd Airborne Division. Finally, he moved to Camp Shanks, New York, before leaving for North Africa.
As a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Company C, Meade arrived in Morocco, North Africa, in May 1943, near the end of the German occupation of the North African theatre. During this time, Meade and his fellow paratroopers trained and prepared for their first airborne attack, Operation Husky in Sicily, Italy.
On July 9, 1943, Sicily became the site of the first large-scale airborne operation in history. The 82nd Airborne Division’s mission was to spearhead the Allied Invasion while also blocking the enemy’s movements near the beachheads. They sought to protect the beachheads for Allied landings, a task repeated three more times over the course of World War II. During the operation, Meade and his men faced strong winds, but nevertheless, blocked the 1st Fallschirm-Panzer Division Hermann Göring from advancing towards the Allied beachhead landings. With Operation Husky complete, the Allies continued their attack, moving to the Italian mainland.
In September, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment prepared for their second combat jump. Roughly 2,100 paratroopers dropped in on the Salerno beachhead in southwestern Italy. For the rest of 1943, the regiment continued to fight, capturing the city of Naples, in southern Italy. Naples marked the first major and successful seizure of a European city for the Allied Forces.
England and D-Day
Beginning in February 1944, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment spent time in England preparing for the ensuing conflict across the channel in France. Once again, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions’ mission meant spearheading the tactical assault.
On June 6, 1944, the paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment jumped into Sainte-Mère-Église, France, before their scheduled start time. Although many missed their dropzones, spreading paratroopers across the Normandy countryside, the division helped to liberate the city within a few days. For their performance, the regiment received the Presidential unit citation. Meade himself won the Bronze Star on June 10 for heroic conduct in action and earned a promotion from private first class to corporal. On July 8, the soldiers were relieved from the front lines and made their way back to England, where they remained until September 1944.
Meade’s final mission came in the Netherlands in September 1944. Under the code name Operation Market Garden, the 82nd Airborne Division was tasked to capture bridges. On September 17, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment jumped into Groesbeek, Netherlands. This marked their fourth jump and largest airborne assault in history. One day into Operation Market Garden, Meade was killed in action on “The Hill” near Plasmolen while attempting to secure a bridge across the Rhine River near Nijmegen. The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment continued to push Germans out until relief units arrived in November. Losing 140 men in the Netherlands, the unit received its second presidential unit citation. The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment also fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Researching Russell Meade, I made a strong connection with his mother, who endured significant loss throughout her son’s childhood, before losing him in World War II.
Born January 1918 in Annapolis, Maryland, he was the first child of Russell Meade Sr., and Ethel Ward Meade. After completing three years of high school, he entered the U.S. Army in 1941.
His first assignment overseas took place in Morocco, North Africa from May to July 1943, then he moved to Sicily for Operation Husky, before finally participating in the Normandy Invasion in France and Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands.
On June 6, 1944, Meade and his fellow paratroopers jumped into Sainte-Mère-Église, France. It was a successful mission for the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, who liberated the town. Finally, on September 17, Meade jumped into Groesbeek, Netherlands, to participate in Operation Market Garden. This was his final mission.
Meade’s mother received a letter in July 1945 from Brigadier General Edward Witsell, who wrote, “Corporal Meade remained at his gun until it was blown from his hands…Throughout this action and the ensuing campaign, he was the first to volunteer for any mission regardless of type.” Meade earned the Bronze Star, in addition to the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Parachutist Badge, World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, and European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
After the war, he was transferred from his temporary grave in Heumen, Netherlands to his final resting place in the Netherlands American Cemetery.
His death was the ultimate sacrifice for the people of the Netherlands. They have not forgotten their liberators, including his grave adopters, Joob and Marlise Simons, and all those who died to bring them freedom.
Ethel Meade can rest peacefully now that Russell’s sacrifice will not be forgotten.
Operation Liberty, a program with National History Day and Liberation Route Europe, took place in the Netherlands from November 13 to 17, 2019. The trip memorialized service members who fought during Operation Market Garden, nearly 75 years after its conclusion. The Liberation Route Europe Team led students and teachers on a tour across the Netherlands, following in the footsteps of American soldiers. Some noteworthy locations for me included the Freedom Museum and Netherlands American Cemetery.
The Freedom Museum, located in Groesbeek, was very close to where Company C was stationed on September 18, 1944, where Meade sacrificed his life. The museum presented World War II from different perspectives and had a collection of artifacts from the war; my favorite artifact was a wedding dress made from a soldier’s parachute. This museum guided visitors through the exhibits exploring the challenges of war and how it relates to today’s society, leaving one thinking, “Is Freedom Really Free?” This experience has given me a greater appreciation for the freedom I have in my country.
Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten is home to over 8,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the Netherlands during World War II, and many others are recognized and honored on the Tablets of the Missing. Each grave is adopted out to a family in the Netherlands, who care for the grave. Adopted graves are often passed down through generations. Upon meeting Meade’s grave adopters, Joob and Marlise Simons, I understood their appreciation for him was beyond just simply taking care of his grave marker; they were just as happy to learn about Meade’s life as I was to be there.
Like the Simons, citizens throughout the Netherlands are incredibly thankful for their liberators. They have so much knowledge on Operation Market Garden, including where different actions took place. Most notable for me was learning how and where Meade died the first night. This information was provided by the local photographer at Fort Lent and our tour guide, a fact that I had not known beforehand, adding to my ongoing research on Corporal Meade.
Throughout this trip and the following research, I have attained a new respect for the soldiers who sacrificed their lives. I have enjoyed learning about Corporal Russell Meade and making connections with his family. This institute has provided me with an experience I will never forget.
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Corporal Russell O. Meade in Europe. 1943. Photograph. Ancestry. www.ancestry.com.
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Russell Owen Meade Portrait. Photograph. Ancestry. ancestry.com.
Russell Owen Meade Temporary Grave in the Netherlands. Photograph. Ancestry. ancestry.com.
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