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Major General Holger Nelson Toftoy (October 31, 1902 – April 19, 1967) was a United States Army officer linked to early rocketry such as the Redstone missile.

Holger Toftoy
Holger N Toftoy nov56 01.jpg
Born Holger Nelson Toftoy
October 31, 1902
Marseilles, Illinois, U.S.
Died April 19, 1967
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Alma mater United States Military Academy
Occupation Military officer


Early life and military careerEdit

Toftoy was born on October 31, 1902, in Marseilles, Illinois. He studied at the University of Wisconsin–Madison as an ROTC cadet, then transferred to the United States Military Academy, graduating in 1926. After taking basic flight training, he was transferred to the Coast Artillery and served three years in Hawaii as a battery commander before returning to West Point as an instructor.

In the 1930s he was sent to the Panama Canal to command the mine defenses of the Pacific approaches. In 1938 he was transferred to the Submarine Mine Depot in Fort Monroe where he served six years as chief of the Industrial and the Research and Development divisions.

Operation PaperclipEdit

While working at the submarine Mine Depot, Toftoy oversaw the development and design of a new system of controlled submarine mines that was widely using during World War II. Toftoy acquired great expertise in mines and explosives who helped clear harbors in France during the war.[1]

In 1944, he became chief of the Army Ordnance Technical Intelligence teams assigned to Europe to seek out and evaluate captured enemy ordnance weapons and equipment. During this time, Toftoy received a request from Colonel Gervais Trichel, chief of the rocket branch in the Ordnance Department at the Pentagon, to acquire and ship 100 operational V-2 rockets to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico for testing.[2] Soon after the capture of the area around Nordhausen and the Mittelwerk, Toftoy set up Special Mission V-2 to do the job. He assigned Major William Bromley in command of the special mission, and he reported back to Toftoy through Major James P. Hamill, who was responsible for shipping the weapons from Nordhausen to Antwerp, and from there to New Orleans. Bromley and Hamill went to central Germany to salvage as many missiles as they could, under pressure because of the unwelcome news that U.S. forces would be withdrawing soon. Although there were by no means a hundred complete V-2s available, Toftoy organized U.S. soldiers and camp workers to put partially completed rockets and major components into hastily requisitioned rail cars. From 22 to 31 May, several freight trains left Nordhausen for Antwerp loaded with missile and missile parts; thus successfully completing the mission.

Toftoy knew the U.S. Army was planning to add guided missiles to its weapons program. He first cabled, then went personally to Washington to recommend that the German scientists be brought to the U.S. for interrogation and possible employment. The mission became known as Operation Paperclip. By September 1945, the first group of scientists, including Von Braun, had arrived in the United States. In its first year, no less than 119 German scientists came to the United States under Toftoy's leadership.[3] Toftoy was then transferred back to Washington and assigned responsibility for direction of the Army guided missile program.

After the warEdit

In 1952, Toftoy was assigned to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, as director of the Ordnance Missile Laboratories, which was responsible for planning, technical control and supervision of what had become the nationwide Army guided missile and rocket development program. During this time the arsenal became responsible for the research, development, procurement, production, storage and maintenance of the entire Army family of missiles and rockets; some of the products of that program became widely used in the U.S. Military program such as the PGM-19 Jupiter, the MGR-1 Honest John, the LIM-49 Nike Zeus and the MIM-3 Nike Ajax, amongst others. In 1958, Toftoy became deputy commanding general of the Army Ordnance Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal. He remained at RSA until July 1958, when he was named the commanding general of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland (August 1958).[4]

Toftoy retired from the army due to health reasons in 1960 and moved to Treasure Island, Florida, where he had a private boat landing and access to the Gulf of Mexico for indulging in his passion for fishing. Retirement, however, did not mean the end of Toftoy's contributions to the field in which he had been so dominant a figure. Among other activities, he was retained as a consultant by the Northrop Corporation and by the Brown Engineering Company. Involvement in civic affairs, which had been so meaningful at Huntsville, Alabama, continued after his retirement, and was climaxed when he was elected President of the Isle of Capri Civic Association in 1962.


Recurrence of an old ailment during a Christmas visit to his daughter at Huntsville in 1966 led to evacuation to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he underwent four major operations in the following months. Exhausted by his ordeal, Toftoy died on April 19, 1967. Burial was in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. In 1958, a commemorative plaque was placed in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama, who gave him the nickname of "Mr. Missile". He was a member of Helion Lodge #1 Free & Accepted Masons in Huntsville.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Piszkiewicz, Dennis (2006). The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crimes of War. Stackpole Books. pp. 216–218. 
  2. ^ Neufeld, Michael (2008). Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War. Vintage Books. pp. 208–210. 
  3. ^ Laney, Monique (2015). German Rocketeers in the Heart of Dixie: Making Sense of the Nazi Past During the Civil Rights Era. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-300-19803-4. 
  4. ^ "U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command".