NO. 17797 • 9 Dec 1924 - 8 Feb 1955
Died near Frederick, MD
Interred in West Point Post Cemetery, West Point, NY
William Simmons Todd Jr., was born in Ossining, NY, and grew up in White Plains with his parents, William Simmons and Catherine Adams Todd; sisters Carol, Della, and Katy; and younger brother, Western. "Bill" was an Eagle Scout in Troop 17 in White Plains and, in September 1942, began his studies at Washington & Lee University. In February 1943, shortly after his 18th birthday, he joined the Army.
It took Bill three tries to get into West Point. On the first attempt, he came in second for a congressional appointment. Then, after spending eight months at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, he again missed. He returned to duty with the Army Air Corps and served with the Thirteenth Air Force in the Pacific Theater, earning battle stars for the Luzon and Borneo campaigns. In October 1945, Bill received an Army nomination for the Academy and returned to the Preparatory School for another try, but a congressional appointment came through, and his Army appointment went to one of his fellow trainees.
Early in his cadet career, Bill's classmates, upperclassmen, and the Tactical Department realized he was a natural leader. His bearing, sharp appearance, and confident approach to getting things done resulted in his selection for high cadet leadership roles.
Bill was a "big brother" for younger classmates. His roommate for three years, Joe Griffin, was one of the many younger cadets who watched Bill meet the challenges of cadet life calmly and with humor. In fact, Joe feels he owes his graduation to Bill's positive influences and, in Bill's honor, named a son "Todd."
Bill was a solid student and stayed comfortably out of trouble. He was an excellent athlete, both on the corps squad lacrosse team all four years and in company intramural sports. A teammate said, "The team had confidence in him. He was a showman, yet he was a leader. He respected everyone and treated them as his equal."
During his First Class year, Bill was the second-ranking cadet, militarily, in the class and commanded the 2d Regiment of the Corps of Cadets. John "Jack' Murphy, Cadet First Captain and lacrosse teammate, adds: "Bill was a pleasure to work with. We never heard a negative word from him. He had a great sense of humor, a contagious laugh, and always good, open, helpful advice." William B. DeGraf, Bill's counterpart as commander of the 1st Regiment, comments: "He was a fine leader in the Corps and in athletics. He was universally liked and respected by his contemporaries and by the TACs."
Many of us tagged along with Bill on visits to his home in White Plains, where his family graciously hosted us. We remember his family as close-knit and fun-loving, with parents pestered, but undaunted, by two somewhat mischievous sons and three lovely daughters. His entire family spent many days at West Point during Bill's four-year stay.
Upon graduation, Bill was commissioned in the Air Force. He completed pilot training and, in 1951, joined the 126th Bombardment Wing, a National Guard unit activated to augment the air support for NATO during the tense Korean War years. Shortly after Bill's arrival, the Wing moved to Laon, France. With this unit, he flew the B26, a twin-engine, propeller driven, light bomber of WWII vintage.
Facilities available were primitive, but Bill kept his good humor and cheered his comrades. A fellow officer comments: "Living in a tent city was no picnic, but Bill always managed to lighten the load and our spirits by organizing athletic events and exciting trips. He volunteered for tough assignments like Korean TDY and ferrying aircraft to the States." Another classmate comments: "Bill was recognized as a fast burner. He was the quiet professional who did everything better than most people and, in leadership, was number one."
Along with Army classmates, Bill also "marched to the sound of the guns" by spending several months on temporary duty in Korea with the 17th Bombardment Wing flying combat missions, and was awarded the Air Medal.
As much as any cadet, Bill enjoyed the many weekend female visitors to West Point. Indeed, his good looks earned him more than his share of attention from them. He didn't find the right woman, however, until a few years after graduation. On 2 Jan 1954, CPT William Todd and Diana Burkett married in Miami Beach, FL. Their daughter, Daryln, was born just weeks before the accident that claimed Bill's life.
In 1955, while Bill was stationed at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, UT, his unit was being re-equipped with the B-57 Canberra, a twin jet light bomber. On 8 Feb 1955, Bill was ferrying a brand new B-57 from the Glenn L. Martin factory in Baltimore, MD, to Tinker Air Force Base, OK. Only minutes after his takeoff from Baltimore, the plane crashed near Frederick, MD. Bill died instantly.
Bill's wife, Diana, now remarried, lives in Florida. Their daughter, Daryln Hoffstot, lives in Ligonier, PA, and has given Bill two grandchildren, Henry and Maeve. Daryln adds she would be happy to meet her father's old friends should they ever find themselves in western Pennsylvania.
Bill was a natural leader with an omnipresent positive attitude that turned the rigors of scholastic and military training programs into attainable challenges. Had he been spared that tragic accident, we know he would have achieved the great success we all expected. His family, classmates, friends, and colleagues remember him with affection and deep respect. William Simmons Todd, Jr., we salute you!
- His family and classmates