World War II veteran Sid Zimman shared what it was like to be a gunner and a dive bomber for the Marines in the South Pacific during a presentation that was part of the “World War II Experience,” a series of lectures that give people insight into what World War II was like and what soldiers went through.
The presentation started shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 21 and Zimman spoke before an audience of more than a dozen different people at West Coast Ammo in Temecula. He discussed his motivation for entering the war, his experiences in boot camp and his experiences in combat itself.
Zimman – a child of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania – enrolled in the Marines in 1942 after he finished his high school education in Michigan. He said he entered the Marines for two key reasons; one was that he wanted to join the branch of the military he thought was the best, and the other was that he wanted to represent Jewish people as a soldier.
Linda Dudik, PhD, who organizes the veteran talks, said that there was a common conception among American people in the 1940s that young Jewish men were not involved with the war, at least not in a combat capacity.
She said there were certain people who thought Jewish men were only in quartermaster – providing supplies and clothing to other troops – and this was in part because of anti-Semitism that was rampant in the ’30s and ’40s in the United States.
When Zimman signed up for the Marines, he was sent to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Normally enlisted marines located to the east of the Mississippi River were sent to Parris Island boot camp in North Carolina, but the boot camp was full and Sid was sent west instead.
From there he began his journey of being a radio operator, gunner and bomber.
After his initial period of training at the boot camp, Zimman had to choose a Marine Occupational Specialty (MOS) as part of the Marines and he chose to be an aerial radio operator which meant that he went to Jacksonville, Florida, radio school to learn how to operate a radio in an airplane 10,000 feet above the ground.
He later went to gunner school at Yellow Water, Florida, to learn gunning operations before he left to Sanford Fla. to participate in operational training for aircrafts.
Zimman would be stationed in various locations before eventually being assigned to the newly formed Squadron VMSB-341 as a bomber. His position as part of the Marine air corps made him unique. The percentage of airborne Marines was less than one percent of the military at large during this time, according to Dudik.
As a bomber, Zimman would release bombs from his plane as the plane traveled straight toward its target at a 70 to 80 degree angle.
Zimman said such an operation was very unforgiving and very difficult to pull off sometimes because if a plane didn’t pull out in time a pilot could be risking serious injury or death.
But Zimman said he felt very grateful not only for the plane, an SBD (Slow But Deadly) Dauntless Dive-Bomber, but also for Lt. Albert Alfred Black. Black was the pilot of the plane who maneuvered it while Zimman dealt with bombing and gunning.
“If you lined up a bunch of guys, maybe he wouldn’t be the first guy you chose,” Zimman said. “But he attended to business. He never equivocated and he did his job.
Zimman and Black flew numerous flights together in the South Pacific, performing airstrikes on airfields, anti-aircraft artillery, ammunition dumps and shipping in places where Japanese Naval Fortresses had been established like the islands of Rabaul and Munda.
After two years of combat, Zimman would eventually return home to the U.S.
Later, in 1945, his journey would come full circle and he would take on a job as a radio instructor at the El Centro Marine Air Base.
Zimman, during his time speaking, said he was glad for the work that Linda Dudik does. He said she has tried to keep the memory and facts of World War II alive and her passion for doing so is evident.
“Professor Dudik is tenacious in her presentations and her research,” he said. “And while others leave no stone unturned, professor Dudik leaves no pebble unturned.”