He spent 29 and a half years at Day-Brite, but often put his days off to use, too.
“I hardly ever had a weekend when I didn’t shoot a wedding,” the 88-year-old Ecru resident said.
He took photography classes in Memphis, but they didn’t do him much good.
“I knew more than the instructor who taught me,” he said.
Todd learned the bulk of his art courtesy of the U.S. government. During World War II, he served on a U.S. Navy B-24 in the Pacific Theater.
“I was a photographer, third class,” he said, “but I moved up to second class after nine months.”
He split time with another photographer. When one was shooting pictures, the other manned a 50-caliber waist gun.
“The Japanese sent the Zeros after us,” he said. “They shot a phosphorous bomb at us one time. Never forget. It busted in front of us. We flew through it but the bomb missed us.”
Todd’s plane was affectionately known as “Heavenly Lambchop.” A captured Japanese soldier had a different name for it and the other B-24s: “Blue Devils.”
Of course, it wasn’t Todd’s plane. He shared it with a crew of men, and everyone had his job to do.
“We all worked together. It was just like a ball team,” he said. “Everybody knew what he was supposed to do. He was trained for a special job.”
Photographers weren’t just documenting history; they were gathering valuable intelligence.
“The cameras were mounted. They had switches,” Todd said. “At the right time, you’d hit the switch.”
Heavenly Lambchop’s photographers captured images before, during and after invasions. Sometimes, the commanders’ interpretations didn’t line up with Todd’s understanding.
“They took Iwo Jima one month too early. I was there before and after. That’s how I know,” he said, adding that more bombing might have softened up the resistance.
Heavenly Lambchop usually flew at 20,000 feet, but could get down to 2,000 feet to fly over a battlefield.
Todd had a bird’s eye view of death and destruction, but there were moments of grace, too. One time, a pilot went down in the ocean. Heavenly Lambchop circled overhead for four to five hours until help arrived.
“Me and the other photographer kept him spotted,” Todd said, making a circle with his hands. “You can’t cut a B-24 too quickly. You have to make big circles.”
His duty didn’t end with the war. Heavenly Lambchop’s crew was tasked with mapping Japan.
“We mapped it. I mean we mapped it,” he said. “We flew all over.”
No one was shooting at them, but it was dangerous work. Another crew helped with the mapping. That plane had survived 30 missions during the war, but the peacetime mission turned deadly.
“Flew into a mountain,” Todd said, shaking his head.
After the war, Todd figured he’d make a living as a photographer, and used the G.I. Bill to go to that school, where he didn’t learn much at all.
He said there weren’t any photography jobs to be had when he got out. He eventually landed at Day-Brite, and turned photography into a weekend pursuit that also provided extra spending money.
The wedding photos he took are scattered about old newspaper clippings and wedding albums, and the yearbooks he shot for are around somewhere.
His combat photography, though, is easy to find. He recently donated a suitcase full of images and other remembrances to the Tupelo Veterans Museum at Ballard Park.
“I don’t guess I need it any more,” Todd said.