Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Leslie Fauver Zimmerman

Photo of Leslie ZimmermanLeslie Fauver Zimmerman was born on November 24, 1908. He married Mary BradeenPhoto of Leslie Zimmerman in 1928. and graduated from Spokane University in Washington state in 1931 with a BA in sociology. Ordained in the ministry in 1931, he pastored churches in Dayton and Seattle, Washington. He was commissioned as an Army chaplain in 1937 and entered into active duty with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Lewiston, Idaho and Fort Missoula, Montana. He served with the 15th Infantry and 4th Infantry before being assigned to the Philippines in May 1941 as a base chaplain at Nichols Field, Rizal, Philippine Islands.

Zimmerman underwent the siege of Manila directly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and when Nichols Field was overtaken by the Japanese, he served as a regimental chaplain in the Provisional Air Corps Infantry Regiment on Bataan. During this period, he kept a diary in a notebook, and he continued writing during his time as a prisoner of war. He survived the Bataan Death March and afterward served as a chaplain at Cabanatuan for 29 months. At one point, he used the labels from the eight cases of canned milk that the Japanese gave the prisoners daily to write out 30 hymns. The men used shoemaker's linen thread to sew them together into a booklet. When he realized that he would no longer be able to conceal his diary because he was being shipped out of Cabanatuan, he rolled up the booklets and put them into blood plasma containers sealed with candle wax, leaving them with an officer. The officer buried them beneath the quartermaster building.

Zimmerman  was sent to Formosa on the hellship Hora Maru in October 1944. In January 1945 he went to Japan to Camp No. 3 (Hosokura) in the Sendai area.

He was repatriated in September 1945 and
he earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity from Webster University in 1946. He then returned to duty in May 1946 after a period of hospitalization; during his imprisonment he had suffered from malaria, jaundice, and amoebic dysentery, as well as malnutrition. He earned the rank of colonel in 1950 and at the time of his retirement for wartime service connected disability in October 1963 he was the highest ranking colonel in the Air Force chaplaincy. In 1956, when he was stationed in London, he received a letter from an Air Force reserve officer named Stephen Ware, asking if he had been a chaplain who kept a diary. As it turns out, Ware was in possession of Zimmerman's diary, having gotten it from a G.I. whose name he didn't know. Ware had then mentioned the diary to an Englishman who knew Zimmerman, and that is how Ware contacted him and ultimately sent him his diary.

Following his retirement, Zimmerman served on the Executive Staff of Goodwill Industries in Orange County, California for 10 years. He then moved to Desert Hot Springs, California, but after suffering a heart attack in 1980, he relocated to Claremont Manor in Claremont, California and was the editor of the Manor Items. He also served on the Religious Activities Committee and as an elder and adult Bible school teacher at the First Christian Church. He was also on the Board of the Pomona Valley Community Services and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. He documented the records of the 38 chaplains who became POWs in the Pacific, information which resides with the National Defense University Press and Air University Library.

Zimmerman passed away on February 24, 1999 at Claremont Care Center at the age of 90.