Lieutenant Colonel Harry J. Zimmerman, USAAF


Lt. Col. Jack Zimmerman (Photo courtesy Hayes Presidential Center, via Mansfield News Journal)

Over the last week, you may have seen articles in various Canadian media outlets detailing the discovery of a sunken Second World War PBY Catalina flying boat off Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, Québec.

A U.S. warplane that crashed in waters off the Quebec coast in November 1942 with five crewmen trapped inside has been discovered by underwater archeologists from Parks Canada – a “very significant” find for aviation heritage and a “testament to the collaboration” between Canada and the U.S. during the Second World War, Public Works Minister Christian Paradis announced on Thursday.

The downed aircraft, an amphibious PBY Catalina that was part of a key Allied squadron of planes linking North America to the battlefields of Europe, is believed to be the underwater grave of five U.S. airmen who couldn’t be rescued by the local fishermen who plucked four other Americans from choppy waters at the crash site.

— Boswell, Randy.  “Wreckage of U.S. warplane found off Quebec coast.Canwest News Service, 06 August 2009.

The commander of that aircraft is thought to be one Lt. Col. Harry “Jack” Zimmerman, US Army Air Force.  Ms. Kristina Smith Horn of the Mansfield News Journal has penned a terrific biographical sketch of a man who was a true pioneer of civil aviation.

Born and raised in Fremont, Zimmerman was one of the first pilots for TWA Airlines, said Nan Card, curator of manuscripts at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. When he joined the Army, he was TWA’s chief pilot for its Eastern and Atlantic Division.

In 1929, he piloted a Ford Tri-Motor — better known as the Tin Goose — in the first air service from one side of the continent to the other for an airline that later became TWA, Hayes Center records show. Ten years later, he flew the first scheduled flight into LaGuardia Airport the day it opened in New York.

…He flew FBI agents to nab notorious kidnapper and thug Alvin “Creepy” Karpis — the FBI’s “Public Enemy No. 1” — and won the gratitude of bureau director J. Edgar Hoover.

His role in the FBI’s arrest of Karpis won him fame and a personal letter from Hoover.

“If you are ever in Washington, I hope you will let me know because I would like to show you some of the things here which we are trying to do in the crime situation,” Hoover wrote. “If occasion should require the chartering of a plane for my use in the future in a similar case, I hope it may be possible to secure your services.”

— Smith Horn, Kristina.  “Ohio flying ace’s remains may have been found.Mansfield News Journal, 16 August 2009.

It’s worth reading the whole thing.

Requiescat in pace, Lt. Col. Zimmerman (Long Island, N.Y); Capt. Carney Lee Dowlen (Dallas, Texas); Sgt. Charles O. Richardson (Charlevoix, Mich); Pte. Erwin G. Austin (Monroe, Maine); and Pte. Peter J. Cuzins (Cincinnati, Ohio).  May future generations remember your deeds.

A NOTE OF CORRECTION: The Canwest News story linked at the top incorrectly states that Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan was part of the “Crimson Route” for ferry flights from Canada to Britain.  The Crimson Route actually originated much further west at Gore Field, Montana, and routed much further north via Iqaluit, a.k.a. “Crystal II”.  Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan may, however, have been part of the primary or secondary “Northern Route.”  For more information on the Atlantic ferry routes, see the informative and well-illustrated “Interesting Facts about the Atlantic Air Routes of WWII” by Kelsey McMillan, published in Vol. I No. 4 of the Bomber Legends e-magazine.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.