Army Pvt. John Towle was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.
He joined the army in March 1943, becoming a member of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 82nd Airborne Division and served in North Africa, Italy, and the European Theater of Operations. Pvt. Towle single-handedly defeated a tank-supported German infantry counter attack at Osterhout, Holland 21 Sept. 1944, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was 19 years old.
Major General C. L. Scott presented the Medal to Towle’s parents at a ceremony at Ft. Knox, Ky. in March 1945, and his body was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland 23 Jan. 1949; Major General James A. Gavin, wartime commander of the 82nd Airborne spoke at the internment.
Private Towle’s official 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.
In an article by Brian Albrecht, Memorial service honors local World War II Medal of Honor paratrooper
On Saturday, at 10 a.m., that courage will again be remembered with a special memorial ceremony at Towle’s grave in Calvary Cemetery, 10000 Miles Avenue, in Cleveland.
Towle’s nephew, Tom Ryan, 58, of Euclid, said the event is part of the All Ohio Airborne Days, Oct. 1-3 in Cleveland, when airborne association members from across Ohio and other states will gather here. Towle is an honorary member of the local John Towle Medal of Honor Cleveland Chapter of 82nd Airborne Association.
The president of the national 82nd Airborne association will be among the guests at the ceremony that will include presentation of colors, laying a wreath at the Army paratrooper’s grave, a rifle salute and taps.