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Leon Zimmerman
War:World War II
Branch:Air Force
Highest Rank:1st Lt.
Birth Year:June 4, 1924
Place of Birth:Hersey, MI
Citations: Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters; POW Medal; WWII European, African, Middle East Medal


1st Lt., Bombardier in the 457th Air Force. Leon Zimmerman was born in Hersey, Michigan, a town of 206, on 6/4/1924. Leon was attending Grand Rapids Universith when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the Army rather than being drafted and having no choice of assignment.

After numerous testing, he was finally assigned to Bombardier training. His first six weeks were spent marching, and calisthenics. Eventually Leon was transfered to Las Vegas for gunnery school, followed by Advanced Bombardier School in New Mexico.

Leon graduated in 2/4/44 and was sent to England by way of Baltimore and Florida, where he was assigned to a replacement crew in the 8th Air Force. Eventually, his crew was assigned to the 457th Bomb Group. His crew participated in a number of training flights before they went on a mission. Their first mission was uneventful, a "Milk Run," no flak, no losses, no battle damage.

There were many other missions by his crew. Two missions especially stood out for Leon. The first was over Stettin where they took a great deal of flak and were very near ditching the plane. They did return to England safely however. The other was in Northern Germany. His B17 crew had to bail out because of the extensive damage. After a harrowing jump he was captured by the Home Guard. His treatment was poor until the regular army took over.

Leon and his crew were assigned to a camp that was commanded by a former Luftwaffe General who treated prisoners with respect. It was not a pleasant time but certainly it was not overly difficult.

Leon's camp was liberated by the Russians. After spending time in different camps and some time in Paris, he returned home, by troop ship. He met and married his wife after his discharge. The now live in retirement in Jackson, Michigan.