Wesley John Zimmerman was born August 20, 1893, in St. Louis, Missouri, to John and Kate Zimmerman. The US Census for 1900 listed his father’s occupation as a clerk. The youngest of three, Wesley had two older sisters Lenora and Helen. Wesley and his sisters attended school in St Louis.1 Wesley would go on to complete two years of college.2 Afterwards, he found a job at Laclede-Christy Clay Products Co. of St. Louis.3
Just a month before his time in the military, the federal government instituted the Selective Service Act of 1917, requiring eligible men to register for service.4 On June 2, at the age of twenty-three, Wesley John Zimmerman joined the US Army.5 He was attached to the 140th Infantry as a cook in Company E out of Kansas City and sent to Europe. The 140th Infantry arrived in Europe in June 1918 to be trained by British forces. In July, the 140th Infantry was tasked with conducting raids on German supply lines during the battle of St. Mihiel. During his time in the 140th, he reached the rank of corporal.6 In late September 1918, Zimmerman was transferred to the 138th Infantry Division, originally formed from the Missouri National Guard, as a machine gunner for added support in the looming Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Along with his reassignment, Zimmerman was promoted to sergeant, seen here in an article in his local newspaper.7 Both the 138th and 140th Infantries began the offensive on September 26, 1918, suffering heavy casualties from German artillery and machine gun fortifications on the first day.8 It was in this assault that Wesley Zimmerman was wounded and evacuated from the front lines. He recovered in a field hospital where he wrote to his parents on October 1.9 After two years of service, Zimmerman was released on May 12, 1919.10
Shortly after the war, Wesley Zimmerman married Agnes Mains. Wesley and Agnes remained in St. Louis, with Zimmerman finding work as a clerk for a brick manufacturing company.11 The Zimmermans remained in St. Louis through the 1920s. Wesley worked as a salesman for a paint and roofing business while Agnes worked as a phone operator for a bus company.12 Both Wesley and Agnes maintained occupations throughout the 1930s, despite the rampant unemployment caused by the Great Depression.13 By the time he was almost fifty years old, Zimmerman participated in the Fourth Registration for the Second World War. This particular draft was often referred to as the “Old Man’s Draft,” as it was intended for men between the ages of forty-five and sixty-four. Instead of registering to be selected for compulsory service, registrants simply supplied their demographic and job status for the federal government to analyze the industrial potential of the nation.14
By 1965, the Zimmermans retired to Pompano Beach, outside of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The couple is shown here in a local newspaper, hosting a party at the Barefoot Mailman Hotel.15 Agnes passed away on July 27, 1981 at the age of eighty-four.16 Wesley lived in Pompano Beach for another nine years before his death on December 16, 1990, at the age of ninety-seven. He was interred at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell in honor of his service to his country. 17
4 “U.S. CONGRESS PASSES SELECTIVE SERVICE ACT,” History.com, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-congress-passes-selective-service-act, accessed April 18, 2017.
6 Evan Alexander Edwards, From Doniphan to Verdun: The Official History of the 140th Infantry (New York: World Publishing Company, 1920), 1-15, 237.
7 “Wounded,” St. Louis Post Dispatch (St. Louis, MI), Oct. 22, 1918
8 Robert H. Ferrell, Collapse at Meuse-Argonne: The Failure of the Missouri-Kansas Division (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004), 25-30.
9 “Wounded,” St. Louis Post Dispatch (St. Louis, MI), Oct. 22, 1918
11 “1920 United States Federal Census,” database, Ancestry.com, https://www.ancestry.com (accessed April 18, 2017), entry for Wesley John Zimmerman.
12 “1930 United States Federal Census,” database, Ancestry.com, https://www.ancestry.com (accessed April 18, 2017), entry for Wesley Zimmerman and Agnes R.
13 “1940 United States Federal Census,” database, Ancestry.com, https://www.ancestry.com (accessed April 18, 2017), entry for Wesley John Zimmerman.
14 “WWII ‘Old Man’s Draft’ Registration Cards,” database, Fold3.com, https://www.fold3.com/title_765/wwii_old_mans_draft_registration_cards#overview (accessed April 18, 2017).
17 National Cemetery Administration, "Wesley J. Zimmerman," US Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed September 18, 2018, https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/NGLMap?ID=3041163; South Florida Sun Sentinel (Miami, FL), Dec. 18, 1990.
© 2017, University of Central Florida