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John R Towle, 82nd Airborne | Medal of Honor Monday

September 5, 2016 joedemadio 3 Comments

Hey guys Joedemadio here with story forjack-official-portrait2015jpg-dd08ec6fca34a66c Medal of Honor Monday. Since the Operation Market Garden anniversary is near, I’d like to talk about another Medal of Honor story which happened during the operation.

Today we’re following a soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division. His name is John Roderick Towle. John Towle was born on October 19th, 1924 and joined the Army from there in March 1943 at the age 18. He had an older brother and two sisters. John wanted to be a paratrooper and served as a private in Company C of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.1 During Operation Market Garden, the mission for the 504th was to capture two bridges across the Maas-Waal Canal. On September 17th the main body of the 504th jumped on dropzone O in Overasselt. One company dropped north-west of Grave. The regiment quickly secured one of the most important objectives, the nine-span bridge over the Maas River at Heumen by hitting both ends simultaneously.


On September 20th the 3rd battalion if the 504th was ordered by General James Gavin to make an assault across the Waal River from the south side at Nijmegen and secure a crucial bridge. Under command of Major Julian Cook the 504th assaulted in twenty-six assault boats under intense fire, taking 200 casualties in the proces. Finaly on September 21 the 504th managed to secure their hold on the bridge, fighting off another German counterattack just before noon. It was in this skirmish that Pvt. John Towle won the Medal of Honor. Towle found himself north-west of the bridge in a hamlet called Oosterhout.

His Medal of Honor Citation reads:

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-track formed for a counterattack. With full knowledge of the disastrous consequences resulting not only to his company but to the entire bridgehead by an enemy breakthrough, Pvt. Towle immediately and without orders left his foxhole and moved 200 yards in the face of intense small-arms fire to a position on an exposed dike roadbed. From this precarious position Pvt. Towle fired his rocket launcher at and hit both tanks to his immediate front. Armored skirting on both tanks prevented penetration by the projectiles, but both vehicles withdrew slightly damaged. Still under intense fire and fully exposed to the enemy, Pvt. Towle then engaged a nearby house which 9 Germans had entered and were using as a strongpoint and with 1 round killed all 9. Hurriedly replenishing his supply of ammunition, Pvt. Towle, motivated only by his high conception of duty which called for the destruction of the enemy at any cost, then rushed approximately 125 yards through grazing enemy fire to an exposed position from which he could engage the enemy half-track with his rocket launcher. While in a kneeling position preparatory to firing on the enemy vehicle, Pvt. Towle was mortally wounded by a mortar shell. By his heroic tenacity, at the price of his life, Pvt. Towle saved the lives of many of his comrades and was directly instrumental in breaking up the enemy counterattack. 

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor six months later on March 15th 1945. Towle, aged 19 at his death, was buried at Cavalry Cemetery in his hometown of Cleveland.

Crossing Map



As usual I’ve tried to find the location for you on Google Maps. Whenthe Germans made their first attempt to attack on the morning of the 21st they were met by the tanks of the Welsch Guards at Lent. The Germans pulled back and planned another assault by flanking Lent and reach the Nijmegen bridge via the dyke where John’s company was dug in. Paratroopers were only lightly equiped, so fighting tanks wasn’t an easy task. John’s company was dug in along the dyke. Now the location of the place where got killed says Oosterhout, which to me sounds a bit strange. To me the distance between Oosterhout and the bridge seems a bit too big. Also Lent is much closer to the bridge. It is for sure that John Towle was Killed along the dyke running from Oosterhout to the Waal Bridge. Feel free to click on the link and see the dyke for yourself via Streetview.

I hope you thought this was another great and inspiring story. John R Towle is now resting in peace and hopefuly is story will spread across the world.


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  1. Michael Gregoric
    September 5, 2016 - 4:45 pm

    Great post Joe !
    The visual maps, really give you a great perspective of the battle.

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