Profiles in Courage: Theodore Zimmerman

Posted On: January 25, 2024

Answering the Call

In March 1943, Theodore “Ted” R. Zimmerman received a letter informing him to report to the Cook County Local Board No. 5 in Elmwood Park, Illinois—he’d been drafted into the U.S. Army. Ted, born February 15, 1925, in Chicago, Illinois, had graduated from high school and was just 18 when he received the letter and by  April 7 he was officially part of the United States Army.

Ted soon found himself in Europe in the middle of World War II as part of the Armored Cavalry Regiment in General Patton’s group. His unit was part of the landings at Normandy, France, Belgium, and Germany as they fought through central and northern France. In the fall of 1944, Ted was injured and received the Purple Heart.

Ted remembers:                                                                                                          

“We discovered a German Tiger Tank with supporting German infantrymen nearby. My soldiers in Jeeps with machine guns started to fire at the German troops. My tank gunner started to fire our main cannon at a large German tank to divert the tank’s attention from the Jeeps. I was in the turret of my tank when the tank engine stalled. So I leaped out of the turret and climbed on the engine compartment to try to help start the engine, but it was too late. The bigger and better-armed German tank was able to shoot at our stalled tank with a direct hit. This knocked the turret off, killed the tank driver and gunner, and knocked me off the engine compartment. The Assistant Gunner and myself were both injured and evacuated to a field hospital. I suffered cuts, bruises and a concussion.”

Ted made a full recovery and was assigned to the Military Police in northern France and southern Belgium. It was while he was stationed in Belgium that he met the love of his life, even in the midst of such a terrible war.

Ted met his future wife Jackie on New Year’s Eve 1945 in Brussels. Ted and some of his Army friends were at a social club when a beautiful woman in a green dress named Jacqueline “Jackie” Vanhulle and her sister walked in. 

Ted remembers: 

“They looked around and swished their dress a little bit and I said, ‘That one, that’s for me.’” 

They were to be married a year later and Jackie’s mother wanted her to be married in white, but the factories were all bombed making fabric scarce.

As luck would have it, Ted knew some soldiers that worked in a parachute unit. Offering a bottle of whiskey, he convinced them to help him. They gave him a nylon white combat parachute that was unopened, and a beautiful white dress was made. They married on August 31, 1946. The dress was also worn by Jackie’s sister and Ted and Jackie’s daughter at their weddings. It is now at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ted remained in the service and the newlyweds moved to Croutoy, France. He was still an MP and guarded a prison housing Nazi prisoners of war. In February 1947, Ted and Jackie arrived in New York. Within the next year, Ted and Jackie were stationed at Fort Sheridan near Chicago and they had their first son, Roger Lee. When their baby boy was 18 months old, Ted was deployed again and from 1950 to 1952 he was sent to Korea to fight in the Korean War.

An Illustrious Career

In February 1952, Ted received the Army Commendation Medal while serving with the 8th U.S. Army in Korea. In March, Ted was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and in September he received the Meritorious Unit Commendation medal. After his tour in Korea, Ted and his family moved to Texas. Sometime later, their baby girl, Linda, was born in San Antonio. From Texas, the Zimmermans were off to Germany.
Ted served with the U.S. Army’s 5th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) Battalion of the 8th AAA Group from September 3, 1956 to July 24, 1957 in Wiesbaden, Germany as a Battery Commander and a Staff Officer. A few years later, Ted and his family came back to the United States and eventually bought their first home in Widefield, Colorado. Ted had a beautiful family that stayed with and supported him. Then came the war in Vietnam.

It was 1963 when Ted was sent to Vietnam. Ted was an Assistant G3 Plans Advisor, III Corps as well as a G3 Advisor to a Special Joint Task Force Planning Group, Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam. During his tour in Vietnam, Ted received an Oak Leaf Cluster to add to his Bronze Star Medal. Ted was an integral part of getting the U.S., the Vietnamese military, and civilians working together for military planning. To see if the plans were effective, Ted also participated in aerial reconnaissance and support flights, heliborne, and ground operations. He was wounded during one of these missions in a helicopter crash, but refused to evacuate and completed his mission. He completed his Vietnam tour in 1964.

Ted also worked at the headquarters of the U.S. Army Air Defense Command as an operations and training officer where he worked with manufacturers on innovations and improvements to the Nike-Hercules guided missile systems. Throughout his time in the military, Ted went to college, earned a degree, and learned French, German, and Vietnamese. He received another Army Commendation Medal and the Legion of Merit.

After spending 28 years in the military and having lived around the world, Ted retired in 1971 as a colonel. He and Jackie traveled the world enjoying one another’s company, visiting family and friends in Europe, going to Hawaii, Japan, China, and Thailand; and spending their winters in either Florida or Mexico.

Ted’s military career was extensive and full of award citations complementing his hard work and dedication. We would need an entire display case and a book just to detail his military career, his many accomplishments, and his and Jackie’s fairy tale love story. Luckily, we have both! Come see Ted’s display and read through the books recounting his and his wife’s stories. Colonel Theodore Zimmerman passed away on September 13, 2018, peacefully in his sleep. His lovely wife Jackie passed away on November 25, 2019.

Ted & Jackie

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1 month ago

a great story, a honorable legacy many would love to emulate.

Where are you from?
outside baker city, OR.
Jerry Finnegan
1 month ago

What a great story. I’m glad the parachute made it’s way to the WWII Museum. It shows that love persists even in war.

Where are you from?
Boise, Idaho (originally from Beloit, Wi.
Roger Hayden
1 month ago

This gentleman served well and honorably in 3 wars. Outstanding!

Where are you from?
Born in California; Live in Cambridge, Idaho