Grant Frederick Timmerman was born in Americus, Kansas, on 19 February 1919. Educated in the public schools of Emporia, Kansas, he graduated from Emporia High School in 1936. He played the saxophone in the high school band for two years, enjoyed hunting small game, and read, wrote, and spoke French and Russian. He attended Kansas State Teacher's College in Emporia for one year, where he took a pre-engineering course. In the summer of 1937, he went to California and worked as an electric welder at San Mateo. He enlisted in the Marine Corps at San Francisco on 28 October 1937 and went through boot camp at San Diego.
His first assignment was at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington. After a few weeks duty there, Pvt Timmerman went to Mare Island Navy Yard, California, where he boarded the old China transport, USS Henderson. He crossed the 180th meridian on 10 April 1938, was duly initiated into the Imperial Domain of the Golden Dragon and arrived in Woosung, China, on the 5 May. Assigned to the Motor Transport Company of the 4th Marines, Pvt Timmerman served as a truck driver and as a motorcycle dispatch rider. Once in Shanghai, he and another Marine observed a white woman surrounded by a crowd of menacing Chinese. Playing the part of "Marines to the rescue," he and his buddy dispersed the angry crowd and stood by until a policeman was summoned. The lady turned out to be the wife of a U.S. Navy commander. A letter of commendation and appreciation from the commander were added to the young Marine's record book.
Ranks were not easy to come by in the "old Corps" and it was July 1940 before Pvt Timmerman was promoted to private first class. When the usual 18-month tour of duty was completed, PFC Timmerman requested that his tour be extended. His request was granted and it was thirty-three months in all before he set foot on the California shore again. Arriving at Mare Island in April 1941, he given duty at the Naval Prison there and stayed at that post until his discharge at the completion of his four year enlistment on 27 October 1941.
He went back to electric welding and got a job at the ship yard of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in San Francisco welding electrical fixtures and armor plates on destroyers. After five weeks of civilian life, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and in February 1942, he reenlisted and was reappointed to his old rank of private first class.
Since he had only been out of the Marine Corps for four months, the 23-year-old China veteran did not have to go through boot camp again 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 assigned to the 2d Tank Battalion of the 2d Marine Division, he was promoted to corporal in July, he was advanced to sergeant in October, and in November was once more on his way overseas. His battalion went to Wellington, New Zealand, and when he crossed the equator Sgt Timmerman was initiated in the realm of King Neptunus Rex.
After a period of intensive training in Wellington, the 2d Division made their epic landing on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands on 20 November 1943. However it was two days later that Sgt Timmerman came in with the tanks. In December they went to Hawaii for a rest and more training, and in May 1944 shoved off on another combat mission - the last for Sgt Timmerman.
He landed on Saipan on D-Day, 15 June, and on 28 June sustained a slight shrapnel wound in the right forearm. A few days later - on 8 July - Sgt 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. The sergeant had been firing the tank's antiaircraft gun during the vigorous attack but when progress was halted, he prepared to fire the 75mm 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 75mm. A Japanese grenade came hurtling through the air aimed in the direction of the open turret. Sgt 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 Sgt Timmerman. For that his country bestowed its highest honor upon him - the Medal of Honor.
The Medal and also a Bronze Star Medal earned earlier in the Saipan campaign, were presented to his parents on 8 July 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 hero's mother.
In January 1946 the Navy named one of its new destroyers after Sgt Timmerman. The USS Timmerman (DD-828) was christened by his mother.
Other medals earned by Sgt Timmerman in addition to the Medal of Honor and the Bronze Star Medal, include the Purple Heart with gold star, the Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star, the American Defense Medal with Base Clasp, the China Service Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Medal with two bronze stars, the American Theatre Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Initially buried in the 2d Marine Division Cemetery on Saipan, Marianas Island, Sgt Timmerman was later reinterred in the National Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.
World War II 1941-1945 Medal of Honor