Timmermann, Karl Heinrich.

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Timmermann, Karl Heinrich, born 19-06-1922 in Frankfurt am Main to an American soldier of German ancestry John Henry Timmermann (1884–1955) and Mary Franciska, born Weisbecker, Timmermann (1902–1963). He was married to La Vera Lorraine Meyer Hansen (1922–2002, age 70) in 1943

.   and the couple had one daughter,  Gay Diane Timmermann Estey (1945–2015).

Karl had two brothers and one sister, Fred Walter Timmermann (1925–1981), Mary B Timmermann Ellis (1927–2012) and John Rudy Timmermann (1930–1990).

Karl’s grandfather, Arnold Timmermann, emigrated from Altenmarhorst/Twistringen, Germany, to Cuming County, Nebraska, in 1871. By 1881, Arnold’s parents (John Henry and Helena Dames), a brother (John Henry), and a sister (Anna) had also arrived in Pebble Creek Valley, north of the village of Dodge. Arnold married Anna Wortman on July 6, 1876 in West Point, Nebraska. Their son, John, was born on 28-07-1876.

John Timmermann enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 09-04-1919 and became part of Company M of the Eighth Infantry in the U.S. Army of Occupation. While absent without leave in 1921, he met Maria Weisbecker. They married in Frankfurt am Main and had a son, whom they named Hans Karl Heinrich, on 19-06-1922.

By January 1924, they were in Nebraska. On 16-08-1928, John was discharged from the U.S. Army. Timmermann attended the Guardian Angels School in West Point, Nebraska. His interest in military history led him to take part in the Citizens Military Training Camp for two summers before his senior year of high school. He graduated in 1940..Young Karl was concerned about being German with a growing war in Europe. He also had been exposed to taunts regarding his father’s supposed cowardice, desertion from the army, and disgrace of the Timmermann family name. This sentiment caused Karl to declare with determination, “… I’m going to make it right again.” Three other siblings and a brother-in-law eventually joined the U.S. armed services “to redeem their name”.

On 06-07-1940, Karl Timmermann enlisted in the US Army. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. Timmermann was assigned to the 15th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division.   under command of Major General  Walter Charles. Sweeney Sr    After the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor, his regular army unit began training for war. The 3rd Division, with the 41st Infantry Division, were then part of IX Corps. In May 1941, the two divisions moved to the Hunter Liggett Military Reservation where June war games pitted them against Major General Joseph Warren Stilwell‘s 7th Division and the 40th Division. Large scale maneuvers continued in August on the Olympic Peninsula, with IX Corps defending Tacoma, Washington until the two divisions from California could arrive to assist.

In October 1942 the 3rd Infantry headed for Norfolk, Virginia then sailed for Morocco and Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa. Timmerman did not go with them. He had been noted for his leadership ability and was selected for Officer Candidate School. He became a second lieutenant on 16-02-1943 while at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas for armored infantry training. He was assigned as a platoon leader within Company A of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division. under command of Major General. John W.illiam Leonard.

Due to his length of service, he was given a furlough home. During this leave he became “acquainted” with LaVera Meyer. Timmermann proposed to her via letter with an enclosed ring. She accepted by mail. On 25-03-1944 the couple was married in Omaha, Nebraska. On 20-08-1944 the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, of the 9th Armored Division boarded the Queen Mary which arrived in Scotland on August 27. On September 28, Timmermann and his Division arrived in France. The green or non-battle tested troops were placed in the Ardennes sector in Belgium. In the first part of December 1944, Karl met his brother Fritz, who enlisted and was serving in an engineer battalion. It was considered a quiet sector good for green troops.

On 16-12-1944 the Germans started their offensive that became known to the Americans as the Battle of the Bulge. Timmermann, as a junior officer, was in the thick of the fighting near St. Vith with his platoon. His company’s entire kitchen staff and its supply sergeant were captured and later executed by the German SS troops in what became known as the Malmedy massacre. Soldiers of Kampfgruppe Jochen Peiper summarily killed eighty-four U.S. Army prisoners of war (POWs) who had surrendered after a brief battle. The Waffen-SS  soldiers had grouped the U.S. POWs in a farmer’s field, where they used machine guns to shoot and kill the grouped POWs; the prisoners of war who survived the gunfire of the massacre then were killed with a coup de grâce gun-shot to the head

Timmermann was wounded in the arm by shell fragments during the fighting, but stayed with his unit until relieved. The Germans twice announced that the 9th Armored Division had been destroyed during the battle. But Timmermann and the Division fought on earning the nickname the “Phantom Division.” In late February 1945, Timmermann and the Ninth Dvision were supporting the right flank or the southern portion of British Field Marshal Bernard Law “Monty” Montgomery‘s flank.    On February 28, Timmermann’s daughter Gay Diane was born, but didn’t learn of her birth for almost two weeks. On March 6, Timmermann’s company commander was wounded in action and Timmermann was appointed by Lieutenant. Colonel Leonard Earl Engeman to take over Able company. He was also told that Able company was going to be the advance guard for a push to the Rhine River. Leonard Engeman would receive the silver star for his action at the Remagen Bridge. He survived the war and died 11-07- 2002, age 95, in San Jose, Santa Clara County, California, USA.

At 1340 hours (1:40 PM) on 07-03-1945, the main American attack began on Remagen

  As the Americans forced their way to the western edge of the bridge, the Germans set off an explosive charge creating a 10-meter-wide crater in the left or west bank ramp of the bridge. At 1500 hours, the Americans paused, waiting for the bridge to be demolished by the Germans. But nothing happened. Unknown to the Americans, the Germans tried to destroy the bridge several times. The Germans, under fire, were struggling to restore the demolition wires to blow up the bridge. Finally the Americans decided to take the bridge and the order went out. At about 1530 hours, Company Commander Lieutenant. Timmermann was ordered to assault the bridge with his company in an effort to seize and hold it. Within five minutes Timmermann was leading his under-strength company dashing onto the bridge. Timmermann had designated half of his men to rush directly to the other side of the bridge to secure to east side of the bridge and to provide covering fire to the rest of the men. The other half swarmed the bridge and as they dodged machine gun fire, moving from bridge girder to girder, they cut wires and removed as many of the explosive charges as possible.

While we were running across the bridge … I spotted this lieutenant, standing out there completely exposed to the machine gun fire that was pretty heavy by this time. He was cutting wires and kicking the German demolition charges off the bridge with his feet!”

As Timmerman’s men were approaching mid-span at 1540 hours, the eastern portion of the bridge was blown up by order of German Major Scheller. But the bridge somehow remained standing. The bridge had lifted up a bit and then dropped safely back in place. Timmermann and his men picked themselves up continuing to cut wires and dump explosives while the other half continued their attack. American engineer troops arrived and immediately were ordered to take over the demining of the bridge. After being replaced by the engineers, the rest of Timmermann’s men were following the first half of the company eastward across the Rhine.

About 1545 hours, one of Timmermann’s squad leaders, Sergeant Alexander A. Drabik of Holland, Ohio, under heavy fire, was the first American soldier to cross the bridge. Drabik had run the entire length 325 meters with only one pause as the Germans tried to blow up the bridge and he became the first American soldier to cross the Rhine River. His squad, with other soldiers, secured the eastern side of the bridge by running through the settling dust and smoke from the explosion. Drabik did this without having a single soldier in his squad wounded or killed.

Drabik later said:[7]

“We ran down the middle of the bridge, shouting as we went. I didn’t stop because I knew that if I kept moving they couldn’t hit me. My men were in squad column and not one of them was hit. We took cover in some bomb craters. Then we just sat and waited for others to come. That’s the way it was.”

Timmermann, the Germans had about 300 soldiers and civilians within the 325 meter long railroad tunnel.

In addition, they had four freight train cars loaded with ammunition and aircraft fuel. After a few attempts to escape the Germans realized they were trapped. The soldiers had been ordered to destroy the bridge, they had failed. The civilians, along with many other soldiers, hid in the tunnel because of the American shelling and bombing. The remaining officers had orders to defend and resist to the last man. Women and children were crying and the soldiers became resigned to their fate. Any movement near the tunnel openings were met with enemy fire. Soon enemy tanks would come across the bridge and fire into the tunnel. When that would happen they would all be incinerated. German leadership failed and two German youths, who had been enlisted as helpers for the anti-aircraft cannons, came forward.The first one named Willi Felten yelled that they had to surrender and moved to the bridge entrance. He was shot and killed by a shot to the stomach. Another youth named Karl Busch stepped forward when a woman asked him to try to talk to the Americans. Busch knew some English from school and remembered a war film where the actor René Deltgen yelled “Stop Firing” over and over to end the fighting. Young Busch cautiously went outside yelling “Stop Firing!” in English over and over. The American shooting stopped and Lieutenant. Timmermann asked him why. Busch said they wanted to surrender but were afraid of being shot. Timmermann coaxed Busch out and talked with him. Busch described the situation in the tunnel and offered to translate for the surrender. The German officers were still reluctant to surrender. Timmermann, through Busch, finally had a German officer come out of the tunnel and a peaceful surrender was arranged. Some 200 soldiers and over 100 civilians, along with young Busch’s mother, surrendered and were escorted over the bridge to safety. It was now a little after 1715 hours (5:15 PM), less than two hours had passed. The only German killed in the railroad tunnel that afternoon was young Willi Felten.

After the withdraw from the tunnel was negotiated Busch received a surprising compliment. “Well done” said Timmerman in perfect German. “He had German parents and wanted to test me” thinks Busch, who made it through the negotiations with “lots of fear”. Not only avoid these negotiations many casualties, but the US troops were able to transport many troops and supplies across the river and according to Busch “able to end the war much quicker that way.”

Allied journalists termed the bridge capture the “Miracle of Remagen”. General Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the bridge “worth its weight in gold” and “one of those bright opportunities of war which, when quickly and firmly grasped, produce incalculable effects on future operations”. It remained functional (but weakened severely), despite the German detonation of a small charge and a stronger charge a few minutes later. The Allies used the bridge for truck and tank traffic. Eight thousand soldiers crossed it during the first 24 hours after capture.

A large sign was placed on one of the stone towers marked “Cross the Rhine with dry feet courtesy of 9th Armd Division.”    The sign is now displayed at the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox, Kentucky, above an M26 Pershing tank, a type used in the battle. During the days after the bridge capture, the US 9th, 78th and the 99th Infantry divisions crossed the bridge. On 17-03-1945, despite Germans efforts to destroy it and Americans efforts to maintain it, the bridge collapsed. By then, Timmermann was on leave.

Timmermann received a furlough to Paris, France. There, he read a Stars and Stripes article about the attack on the Remagen Bridge  and learned he was the father of a baby girl. He also found out he was considered a hero. As news of “one of the war’s most electrifying feats” filled Allied newspapers, Timmermann became a celebrity.  He met the famous U.S. War correspondent. Ernie Taylor Pyle

and other reporters who listened to Timmermann describe how his men were the real heroes. Erny Pyle on 18-04-1945, ws shot by sniper, age 44, at Ie Shima, an island off Okinawa Honto..Sergeant Alexander A. Drabik and Timmermann were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their actions.

Timmermann was discharged from the Army on 12-12-1945. He became a salesman in Nebraska, raising his family. Timmermann missed Army life and tried to rejoin as an officer. However, all officer billets were full, so he enlisted as a technical sergeant in the Regular Army on 28-10-1947. He became a recruiter, and later an instructor with the Officers’ Reserve Corps in Omaha, Nebraska.

With the start of the ‘Cold War,’ Timmermann was commissioned as a first lieutenant on 26-12-1948. He was assigned to Fort Omaha and the Seventh Mechanized Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop of the Seventh Infantry Division.

Death and burial ground of Timmermann, Karl Heinrich.

Timmermann landed with the 7th Infantry Division at Inchon, South Korea, in September 1950. He fought with his unit for several months before seeking medical treatment for ongoing abdominal pain. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer and sent back to the U.S. to Fitzsimons Hospital near Denver, Colorado, for treatment. Timmermann underwent surgery to remove the tumor, but treatment was unsuccessful. He died on 21-10-1951, at age 29. He was given a full military burial at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado. A Denver reporter wrote that “the cancer called war had failed to take his life in two tries”. His wife LaVera recalled, “He detested cancer because of the fact that it was killing him and depriving him of a soldierly duty … He made me promise to polish up his silver stripe (bar), his buttons and his medals for the burial. He wanted every battle ribbon in proper place on his chest. He wanted to be as soldierly as possible.”


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