A native of Pennsylvania, he endured hardships as a prisoner of war just to enlist back in the army

Kōyagi Junior High School, site of POW Camp No. 2 in Fukuoka during World War II.  The camp was the last stop for many Allied POWs as Japan's imperial ambitions began to soar.

Kōyagi Junior High School, site of POW Camp No. 2 in Fukuoka during World War II. The camp was the last stop for many Allied POWs as Japan’s imperial ambitions began to soar. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

(Tribune News Service) — For nearly a year, Master Sgt. David H. Zimmerman had had a strong feeling that war with Japan was on the horizon.

81 years ago, this native of Carlisle, Pa., was stationed in Luzon, Philippines when Imperial Japanese Navy carrier aircraft attacked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Zimmerman was at the time a staff sergeant and a World War I veteran, having spent 15 months in France as a mechanic with the US Army Air Service’s 78th Air Squadron, The Sentinel reported October 19, 1945.

After World War II broke out in the Pacific, Zimmerman was assigned to the Bataan Peninsula, where he was assigned to an engineering depot. “While working on the defense of [Fort] Hughes, Zimmerman was wounded in a bomb blast,” reads the newspaper article. “After recovering from the wound, he was assigned to Corregidor.”

Corregidor, an island fortress at the mouth of Manila Bay, was the last major fortress in the Philippines to surrender to the Japanese. “When the rock fell, Zimmerman was captured and taken to a camp in the Manila area, where he spent two years and nine months from May 6, 1942 to February 4, 1945,” reported The Sentinel.

“We were treated roughly by the Japanese and our food rations were poor,” he told the newspaper. Sometime prior to his October 1945 interview, Zimmerman had been promoted to master sergeant.

From early May 1942 to late January 1943, Mary E. Zimmerman had received no news of her son’s whereabouts. All she knew was that he had been reported missing.

On January 22, at her home on North Bedford Street, Zimmerman received a telegram from the Army Adjutant General’s office in Washington, DC that David was a Japanese prisoner of war.

The code of bushido looked down on those who surrender as less male. As such, the Japanese were particularly brutal towards Allied POWs. These prisoners were subjected to forced labour, inhumane treatment and poor living conditions.

David Zimmerman braved the odds that claimed the lives of 35,756 other prisoners, according to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.

“The war veteran is proud not to have been sick a single day in his life as a prisoner of war,” reports The Sentinel. In fact, David Zimmerman would re-enlist in the Army in late December 1945.

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