Zimmerman

 

Pfc. George Zimmerman


    Pfc. George Zimmerman was born in Yugoslavia in 1915 to Philip & Magalene Zimmerman.  He was the youngest of the couple's three children.  At some point, his family immigrated to the United States, where they settled in Madison, Ohio, and attended Newman and Simpson Schools.  In 1940, George was living at 298 Central Avenue in Mansfield and working at a pump company.

    On January 27, 1941 George was inducted into the United States Army at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio.  From there, he was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for basic training.  Upon arriving at Ft. Knox, he was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.

    George was sent to cook's school while at Ft. Knox.  It was while training with his company that it was discovered that he was an excellent tank driver.  Not too long after this, he was reassigned to a tank.

    In the fall of 1941, George took part in the Louisiana maneuvers from August to September.  It was after the maneuvers, on a side of a hill, that George and the other men learned they were being sent overseas.  Many of the men received leaves home to say their goodbyes.
    Over different train routes, the 192nd traveled to San Francisco.  After receiving physicals and inoculations, they were boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott  The ship sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. 
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.

    On December 8, 1941, George lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  That morning the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  They returned to the perimeter of the airfield. 
    All morning, as they stood guard, they watched as American planes filled the sky.  Around 12:15 in the afternoon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  B-17's loaded with bombs to attack Formosa were left sitting on the runway.
   Around 12:45, the tankers saw a formation of planes approaching the airfield from the north.  At first, they thought the planes were American.  It was only when they saw what looked like confetti and heard bombs exploding did they know the planes were Japanese.  This attack wiped out the Army-Air Corps.

    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   

    At Cebu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Santa Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.            
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
  
  On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.       
    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
    By the afternoon, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in a rice field on the north end of the barrio. 
One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.  Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.       
    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.          
    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.

   
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan. 
   
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
   
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
   
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  
The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
    
On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.

    On April 9, 1942, George became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan surrendered to the Japanese.  George and the other tankers stripped their uniforms of anything that identified them as tankers.  They had heard that the Japanese were looking for them for what they had done at the pockets.

    George and his fellow POWs made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  There, they started what became know as the death march.  Because of their poor diets, most of the POWs were already sick.  After they started the march, they went days without food and water.  This resulted with the deaths of hundreds of POWs.  When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were herded into a bull-pin.  They spent the night sleeping in the human waste of the previous POWs who had been held there before them.

    The next morning, George and the others were packed into small wooden boxcars for the trip to San Fernando.  The cars could hold four horses or forty men.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  The temperature in the cars was over 100 degrees.  Men suffocated from lack of air.  Those who died during the trip remained standing.  At Capas, the POWs left the cars.  As they did, the bodies of the dead fell to the ground.  George walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

     Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army base.  There was only one water faucet for 12,000 POWs.  Men literally died of thirst while waiting in line for a drink.  As many as 50 POWs died each day.  The conditions in the camp were so bad, that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.   In the camp, he was assigned to Barracks 10.  He also was reported, by the camp medical staff, to have been hospitalized on June 11, 1942 and again on Thursday, July 2, 1942, suffering from malaria.  He was discharged on Saturday, November 28th from the hospital.  He was again admitted to the hospital on March 23, 1943.  No reason for the hospitalization was given, but he may have been tested for tuberculosis.  On

    In late 1944, when it became apparent to the Japanese that the invasion of the Philippines was near, most of the POWs on this detail were sent to the Port Area of Manila.  The Japanese were attempting to send the healthy POWs to Japan, and other countries, to work as slave labor and prevent them from being liberated by advancing American forces.

    When George's group of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila on October 10, 1944, they were boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  They had been scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru, but since one of the POW groups had not arrived on time to be boarded, George's group was put on their ship.  With him on the ship were the same members of B Company who had worked with him in Manila.  

    George and 1805 other POWs were packed into the ship's number two hold.  Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks.  These bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up while laying down.  Those standing also had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans.  Since the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans.  The floor of the hold was covered with human waste.

    On October 11th, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died.  The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp. During the night, the POWs were in total darkness.  This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes, but the ship was attacked by American planes while in the cove.

    Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice.  Conditions in the hold were so bad, that the POWs began to develop heat blisters.

    Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights.  Some of the prisoners were able to wire the ship's blowers into the light power lines.  This allowed fresh air into the hold.  The blowers were disconnected two days later when the Japanese discovered what had been done.

    The Japanese realized that if they did not do something many of the POWs would die.  To prevent this, they opened the ship's number two hold and transferred 600 POWs into it.  At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.

    The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th.  There, it joined a twelve ship convoy.  On October 21st, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs making them targets for American submarines.  The POWs in the hold became so desperate that they prayed for the ship to be hit by torpedoes.

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel.  Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard.  The men inside the holds knew this meant that American submarines had been spotted and began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.

    The Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship.  As the POWs watched, a torpedo passed in front of the bow of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship.  There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships in its third hold where there were no POWs.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.

    One of the Japanese guards aimed his machine gun and began firing at the POWs who were on deck.  To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on the holds but did not tie them down.

    As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two holds, but since they had not tied down the hatch covers, some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached the ladders.  They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.

    The POWs were able to get onto the deck of the ship.  At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship.  Many raided the ship's food lockers and ate their last meals. 

    A group of 35 POWs swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they pushed them away with poles and hit them with clubs.  The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.

     As the ship got lower in the water, some of the POWs took to the water.  These POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking.   At some point, the ship split in two.  The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.

    Five of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the survivors, the Arisan Maru broke in two and sank sometime after dark.  As the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer and fewer until there was silence.

    Pfc. George Zimmerman lost his life when the Arisan Maru sank in the South China Sea.  Since he died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.

    In 1959, the American Legion Post in Mansfield, Ohio, was named after George Zimmerman.  He also was awarded the Purple Heart, the POW Medal, the American Defense Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Medal, Philippine Defense Medal, and Silver Star.


 


 

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