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Harvey Todd in 1945

Lieutenant Harvey Allan Todd

 

Unit : Jedburgh Team Claude

Awards : Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart

 

Harvey Todd was the American officer in command of Jedburgh Team Claude, a 3-man squad attached to the 1st Airborne to act as liaison between the Division and the Dutch Resistance. With him was a Dutch officer, Captain Jacobus Groenewoud, and a US wireless operator, Technical Sergeant Carl Scott, and they flew from Barkston Heath on Sunday 17th September in a C-47 that was shared with another unit. Upon making what Todd described as a perfect landing, he and Groenewoud left to locate transport while Scott searched for their equipment and his wireless set. Unfortunately it took Scott so long to accomplish this that he became separated from the two officers for what later transpired to be the rest of his life, and whilst Groenewoud and Todd made their way to Arnhem bridge with the 1st Para Brigade HQ, he sat out the remainder of the Battle at Oosterbeek and was safely evacuated across the Rhine, but was killed in action 5 weeks later.

 

At the bridge the two officers established themselves at Brigade HQ, and throughout Monday 18th Todd busied himself with observational work and bouts of sniping from the attic. At 11:00 on that morning, his helmet was struck by a bullet which then ricocheted into a window, and the resulting splinters cut his face. He received some medical attention in the cellar before returning to his post where, on the following morning, he helped the occupants of Brigade HQ repulse an attack. Shortly after a German machine-gun opened up on Todd's position and forced him to displace himself, but undeterred he commandeered a Bren gun, the original owner of which had been wounded, and used it to take out a German 20mm anti-aircraft gun sited approximately 130 yards away.

 

Later on Tuesday it was becoming evident that medical supplies were almost exhausted, and so Todd and Groenewoud volunteered to make a suicidal dash to the nearby home of a doctor, and from there get in touch with the St Elizabeth Hospital to arrange for supplies to come through. In the attempt Groenewoud was killed and Todd was compelled to take cover in a house. He was informed by the owner that his neighbour was a doctor and had a telephone, and from there Todd contacted the Hospital, but was told that the Germans had insisted that no aid of any kind be sent to the Airborne soldiers, and anyone who attempted to do so would be shot. Todd returned to Brigade HQ.

 

On Wednesday 20th a German machine-gun position was set up on a balcony across the road, and with a Bren for company, Todd climbed onto the roof and succeeded in silencing the enemy. In the process, however, he attracted counter-fire from snipers and the butt of the Bren was hit, however some of his attackers similarly betrayed their positions and they were swiftly dealt with by British snipers. Later in the day, two German tanks entered the weakening perimeter around the bridge and fired directly into occupied buildings. Todd was blown out of his position in such an action, but escaped suffering shrapnel wounds to his hand. In the evening phosphorus munitions were increasingly used against the defenders to set their positions on fire; Todd helped combat the fires in Brigade HQ but such resistance proved futile and he was ordered to evacuate, taking some men with him to a close by school.

 

Whereas most non-2nd Battalion combatants were ordered to disperse into the town, Todd remained at the bridge. When the situation was truly hopeless and the order to scatter was given, Todd led the first party, consisting of approximately nine men, away from the bridge at 02:00 on Thursday 21st. At this time all he had about his person was one grenade and a pistol containing two rounds; he held onto the former, but gave the pistol to another man in his group who did not have a weapon. As they crossed a street a German machine-gun opened up on them at point-blank range and Todd was hit and fell down near to the pavement, but he saw that the machine-gun was very close to him and so destroyed it with the grenade. Todd got to his feet and ran across another street and through several destroyed buildings, drawing more machine-gun fire in the process. He climbed over a wall but on the other side could hear German voices approaching, and with nowhere else to go he climbed up a tree where remained undetected as the patrol passed beneath him. It then occurred to Todd that he could no longer feel any pain where he had been hit, and investigating as to why this was he discovered that he had not been wounded after all, but instead an empty magazine in his pocket had absorbed the shot; the misshapen bullet was still tangled up in it. Todd stayed up the tree until Thursday evening when any signs of battle had now subsided. Climbing down he crawled beneath a bush, slept, and remained here until the following evening when he relocated himself in a burned out factory. He stayed here for the next five days until Wednesday 27th September, when a German soldier discovered him hiding behind a large metal plate.

 

If captured, Jedburgh agents could expect harsh treatment, possibly even execution, but like so many others in his unit, Todd succeeded in passing himself off as a bona fide soldier. He passed his period in captivity at two camps and remained a prisoner almost until the end of the war, but he escaped on the 1st May 1945 and was picked up by American troops three days later. Lieutenant Todd claimed he had killed 16 German soldiers at Arnhem bridge, and for his part in that action he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and also a Purple Heart for his wound. After the war he became an insurance agent and settled in Illinois with his wife, Amanda.

 

Many thanks to Jim Ommeren for his generous help with this story.

 

See also: Capt Groenewoud.

 

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