© WW2 Market Garden -
John Roderick Towle was born on October 19 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio as a son of William Levi Towle and Mary Simpkins. John had one older brother and two younger sisters. He entered the service in 1943 and signed up to become a paratrooper. Eventually he was assigned to Company C of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
John missed a couple of operations with the 504th, but joined up with the regiment just in time to take part in Operation Market Garden, the airborne assault in the Netherlands. The main body of his regiment jumped on drop zone ‘O’ in Overasselt and one company was dropped north-
On September 20 the 504 PIR received a difficult task. The road bridge and railroad bridge over the Waal river at Nijmegen was still in enemy hands. Even after 3 days of consequetive fighting the Americans hadn’t been able to get to the bridges and take them from the enemy. The 504th, together with the 307th Airborne Engineers Battalion and men of the 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, was tasked to cross the river Waal just west of the railroad bridge, close to the electric plant and attack the bridge and its defenders from the north side of the bridges. In the meantime, men of the 505th and British Guards Armoured Division would bash into the defenses on the south side of the bridge. At 15.00 hours in the afternoon the first wave hits the water. Twenty-
The men of the 82nd Airborne Division were able to create a bridgehead on the north side of the river Waal. Arnhem and the 1st Airborne Division was just a stone’s throw away. Tanks of the Guards Armoured Division cross the Nijmegen bridge and spend the night at Lent, a small town just north of the Nijmegen road bridge. They had to wait for the 43rd Wessex Division. Together they could clear the area in between Nijmegen and Arnhem of German forces and get to their brothers in arms at the Arnhem bridge.
The German forces knew that the Anglo/American bridgehead is still fragile and decide to attack it with full force. A couple of Tiger tanks, supported by half-
The German Tiger tanks drove on top of the dyke and were heading for the bridge. John, a month shy of turning 20, gets his rifle and his bazooka, left the safety of his foxhole and starts his counterattack. A buddy of John follows him with some rockets for the bazooka. John finds a new position and starts shooting at the German tanks. Everytime he pops up from his position he hits one of the tanks and after a couple of hits is able to damage the two Tiger tanks. He receives heavy enemy fire but keeps going forward. The tanks retreat towards the direction of Lent and John sees a building where fire is directed from. He fires at it with his bazooka and hits target. John spots a halftrack and reloads his bazooka one more time. He aims for the vehicle, but just before he fires his tube a mortar round explodes right next to him killing him instantly.
With his actions John was able to save the men of his company of certain destruction and was pivotal in the defense of the bridgehead. In March 1945 John was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery in the United States army.
Private John Roderick Towle
Company C, 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division
Place and date: Oosterhout, the Netherlands, 21 September 1944
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 21 September 1944, near Oosterhout, Holland. The rifle company in which Pvt. Towle served as rocket launcher gunner was occupying a defensive position in the west sector of the recently established Nijmegen bridgehead when a strong enemy force of approximately 100 infantry supported by 2 tanks and a half-