|K e n s m e n : 4 3 r d B o m b G r o u p (H), 5 t h A A F|
Captain "Skipper" Col. Kent L.A. Zimmerman
Squadron: 63rd Squadron
Position: I was a Pilot from March 1944 to August 1945, stationed in New Guinea and Okinawa. I flew 46 B-24 combat missons and later 8 combat missions in the B-32, evaluating B-24 replacement crews in this new aircraft. My original crew members included James Watts (Co-Pilot), George Burhoe (Navigator), Steven Perrone (Bombadier), Richard Howard (Flight Engineer and Top Turret Gunner), Charlie Nunez (Belly Turret Gunner), Harold Donner (Waist Gunner), John Ahern (Radarman), Kermit Crabtree (Tail Gunner), and Clifford Grivois (Radio Operator). Kermit Crabtree was killed on take-off with a transit crew and John Ahern died after the war. The remaining 8 members are still in contact and we attempt to attend the yearly 43rd Bomb Group Reunion. The 63rd Squadron flew mostly all night missions searching for Japanese shipping targets and if none were found, we were assigned alternate ground targets in the Southwest Pacific Theater.
Served: March 1944 to August 1945
Originally from: I was a rancher in Woodward, Oklahoma.
Training: Primary Training - Victory Field, Vernon, Texas Basic Training - Goodfellow Field, San Angelo, Texas Advanced Training - Lubbock Army Flying Field, Lubbock, Texas Combat Training - Pueblo Army Air Base, Pueblo, Colorado and Smoky Hill AAF, Salina, Kansas and Topeka AAF, Topeka, Kansas B-24 Sea Search Training - Langley AAB, Hampton, Virginia
Citations/Medals: 4 Air Medals, Air Offensive of Japan Ribbon with Battle Stars, Bismark-Archipelago Offensive Ribbon with Battle Stars, China Offensive Ribbon with Battle Stars, Luzon Offensive Ribbon with Battle Stars, New Guinea Offensive Ribbon with Battle Stars, Ryukyus Islands Offensive Ribbon with Battle Stars, Southwest Pacific Offensive Ribbon with Battle Stars, 43rd Bombardment Group Unit Citation, Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation
Planes: No names or special art. We called our Black B-24 Aircraft "The Buzzard", however it was not offically named such.
Number of Missions: 54 total Combat Missions
Description of Missions:
Federated States of Micronesia, Indonesia, Borneo, Philippines, Formosa, Okinawa, Vietnam and Coast of China I have written a book of my memories as a legacy for my descendents. (Not for General Release - Advise if you would like to borrow a copy.)
Most poignant, sad or touching memory of the war:
I witnessed the crash of a B-24 while attempting a landing at Florida Blanca Airstrip in the Philippines. The pilot and co-pilot got out alright, however the rest of the crew were killed and I helped remove the bodies from the wreckage.
Funniest or most fun memory of the war:
In Tacloban, I got a Christmas package from home and it contained four Quart bottles of Lavoris Mouthwash. I assumed Mother thought a cake or food would spoil in transit, so she thought I might need some mouthwash. I put the bottles on my shelf in the tent and forgot about them. One morning, I decided to try the mouthwash, as my mouth tasted like an army had marched through it! I took off the sealing wax on the cap and took a mouthful of it and started to gargle. It burned my throat and I started to spit it out when I realized it was 100 proof bourbon whisky! That really made my day and I consider it to be one of the best Christmas presents I ever recieved.
Any odd or strange memories from the war:
While flying at night, just before sunrise, you almost always got vertigo as the horizon was not distinguishible between the sky and the water. It was a eerie feeling and immediately put you on instrument flying until the sun came up.
Most heroic thing I saw or did:
Where I was and how I celebrated when I learned the war was over:
I was on Okinawa when the war ended and every ship that had a gun mounted on it, shot straight up in the air in celebration. This noisy reverie lasted about an hour.
How having gone to war has affected me, what comes to mind when I think of the war:
I was proud to serve my country in it's time of need. I feel priveleged to have been chosen as a pilot and made this life's work. I credit my crew's capabilities for our successful missions and safe return home. I stayed in the service after the war and retired a full Colonel in February, 1966. Military life is a closeknit organization of families who are living their lives and raising their children under a set of ideals which include a love of country and a sense of duty. My wife and I continue to enjoy this type of living in the Air Force Village in San Antonio, Texas.