Al Zimmerman was still in high school when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and he still remembers people screaming about what had happened and listening to the radio for more information. He had an older brother stationed at Hickam Field in Hawaii, and unlike today it took several weeks for the family to hear via a letter that he was ok.
After graduation Al went to the draft board where he was assigned to the Army. He originally wanted to be a flyer, but he found out he was colorblind and disqualified as an aviator and several other duties. While serving stateside with the 42nd Division he missed two calls to go overseas, but eventually he was sent to the battlefield with his machine gun squad.
Soldiers were always on the alert. At the end of the war, he and his unit encountered survivors of Dachau concentration camp. While he did visit a couple of his squad mates after the war, most of them wanted to move on and not relive the war. The experience he got in the service would not have been possible to get anywhere else.
In his interview his emotions are raw as he tells that he is, above all, still proud after all these years that he took “five boys into combat and brought five men home.”
During June 2-3, 2013, we had the fortunate opportunity to hear and preserve the stories of six Pittsburgh area WWII veterans at century old Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum. As we usually did during our visits to the museum, we set up our mobile recording studio in the venerable “Gettysburg Room,” a stately room paneled in dark wood devoted to the African-American experience during the Civil War.
During this project, our roster included Walter Schwartz (Merchant Marine Service), Joe Zablotny (Navy), Leonard Weitzman (Army), Kathleen Short (Royal Air Force), Jim Scanlon (Army), and Albert Zimmerman (Army).
The Final Story
Al Zimmerman of Allison Park died on Friday, December 9, 2016, age 92. Park. Beloved husband of 68 years to Edith A. Zimmerman. Father of Craig (Debra) Zimmerman, Marsha (Richard) Kruze and Terry (Jim) Shand; grandfather of Eric (Amy) Zimmerman, Lauren Zimmerman, Ryan Kruze, Adam (Lauren) Kruze, Dana (Joe) Hendrickson, Dallas Poe and Eric Shand; seven great-grandchildren; brother of Bertha Trdina and Harry Zimmerman and the late Wilma Stumpf and the late Charles Zimmerman.
Al started his career as a newspaper journalist and spent 33 years as a professional fundraiser. He was a WWII Veteran serving in the US Army’s 42nd Rainbow division. He earned military awards including the Bronze Star, Expert Infantryman Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, Central Europe Medal with three battle stars and the French cavalier for WWII actions. He was in the Battle of the Bulge and helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp. Al was past president of Church Council and he sat on several boards within the Lutheran Synod. Al was a collector of records and stamps and had a love of all things railroads.