BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. Born in February 1919, Grant Frederick Timmerman hailed from Americus Kansas, a small Kansas town in Lyons County Kansas. Timmerman attended Emporia High where he graduated in 1936. While in High School he played saxophone. He also learned how to write and speak French and Russian, a talent that must have been fairly rare in Americus, a town of less than 1000 people in the middle of Kansas.
After graduating, Timmerman took a pre-engineering course at the Kansas State Teacher’s College. He moved to California in 1937 and obtained employment as an electric welder at San Mateo.
He soon became bored with his job as a welder and on October 28, 1937 he travelled to San Francisco and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After completing recruit training at San Diego he was assigned to Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington. After a very short time there Timmerman received orders to report to Mare Island Naval Shipyard to board the USS Henderson for transport to China.
The USS Henderson arrived at Wusong, China on May 5, 1938. Timmerman was assigned to the 4th Marines, Motor Transport Company as a truck driver and motorcycle dispatch rider.
On one occasion while in Shanghai with a Marine buddy, he observed a Caucasion woman being harassed by a crowd of Chinese. He and the other Marine did the “Marine” thing and went to the rescue of the woman. As fate would have it, she turned out to be the wife of a U.S. Navy Commander. He and his buddy received letters of commendation and appreciation from the commander.
Timmerman was promoted to private first class in July 1940. At the completion of his 18 month tour of duty, he requested an extension which was granted. He didn’t return to the States until April 1941. He was assigned to the Naval Prison at Mare Island where he remained until his enlistment of four years was completed. He left the Marine Corps on October 27, 1941.
He returned to his pre-Marine Corps occupation of electric welding, getting a job with Bethlehem Steel at the shipyard in San Francisco. It was a short five weeks later when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In February 1942 he reenlisted in the Marine Corps and was assigned his old rank of PFC.
Since he had only been out of the Marine Corps for four months, the 23-year-old China Marine did not have to repeat basic training, but was immediately sent to the Transport Company at the Marine Corps Base at San Diego. Five weeks later he went to San Francisco as a clerk in the office of the Commanding General of the Department of the Pacific, where he stayed two months. Next he was assigned to the 2nd Tank Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division, he was promoted to corporal in July, and advanced to sergeant in October. In November Timmerman found himself once more on his way overseas. His battalion went to Wellington, New Zealand.
On November 20th 1943 the 2nd Division hit the beaches at Tarawa. On the 22nd Timmerman made his landing with the tanks.
In early December the Division went to Hawaii for R&R and further training. In May 1944 the Division left Hawaii for another mission. It would be the last one for Timmerman.
He landed on Saipan on June 15, 1944 and on June 28, he sustained a slight shrapnel wound in the right forearm. A few days later — on July 8, Timmerman’s tank, of which he was tank commander, was advancing a few yards ahead of the infantry when the attack was held up by a series of Japanese pillboxes and trenches. Timmerman had been firing the tank’s antiaircraft gun during the vigorous attack but when progress was halted, he prepared to fire the 75 mm gun. Exposing himself to the enemy, he stood up in the open turret of his tank to warn the infantry to hit the deck because of the muzzle blast of the 75 mm. A Japanese grenade came hurtling through the air aimed in the direction of the open turret. Timmerman fearlessly covered the opening with his own body to prevent the grenade from killing his crew and the grenade exploded on his chest, killing him instantly. Although two members of the crew received slight wounds from the grenade, none were killed, all the larger fragments being taken by Timmerman. For that his country bestowed its highest honor upon him – the Medal of Honor.
The Medal and also a Bronze Star earned earlier in the Saipan campaign, were presented to his parents on July 8, 1945, the first anniversary of his death, in their home by Col Norman E. True of the Marine Barracks in Great Lakes, Illinois. This quiet informal presentation was made at the request of the Marine’s mother.
Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to
SERGEANT GRANT F. TIMMERMAN
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Tank Commander serving with the Second Battalion, Sixth Marines, Second Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Saipan, Marianas Islands, on 8 July 1944. Advancing with his tank a few yards ahead of the infantry in support of a vigorous attack on hostile positions, Sergeant Timmerman maintained steady fire from his antiaircraft sky mount machine gun until progress was impeded by a series of enemy trenches and pillboxes. Observing a target of opportunity, he immediately ordered the tank stopped and, mindful of the danger from the muzzle blast as he prepared to open fire with the 75-mm., fearlessly stood up in the exposed turret and ordered the infantry to hit the deck. Quick to act as a grenade, hurled by the Japanese, was about to drop into the open turret hatch, Sergeant Timmerman unhesitatingly blocked the opening with his body, holding the grenade against his chest and taking the brunt of the explosion. His exceptional valor and loyalty in saving his men at the cost of his own life reflect the highest credit upon Sergeant Timmerman and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his live in the service of country.
/S/ HARRY S. TRUMAN
Initially buried in the 2nd Marine Division Cemetery on Saipan, Marianas Island, Sgt Timmerman was later reinterred in section A grave 844 the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.