Jack L. Zimmerman
Once a Scout, Always a Scout
Many boys think of their father as their hero. My dad's Scouting background gave him the "right stuff" to really become one. A pioneer in helicopter aviation, a world-record holder, and a nurturing and gentle father, Jack L. Zimmerman was a man of bravery and integrity. During each phase of his life, he built his foundation for success on the principles of the Scout Oath.
Jack became an Eagle Scout on June 5, 1939, just before World War II. Through Scouting, Jack developed a love of camping and a strong sense of loyalty. Scouting taught him the value of clean morals and that doing what was right and honest counts more in the long run.
When duty called, Jack traded in his Scout uniform for another uniform -- that of the U.S. Army. Eager to take advantage of developments in vertical flight, the Army gathered experienced pilots at Freeman Field, Indiana, to teach them the basics of helicopter piloting in the Sikorsky R-4B -- its cutting-edge aircraft. As one of those men sent to basic helicopter training, Jack became a member of the Army's first helicopter class.
Aviation firsts were established constantly during the pioneering days of vertical flight. The concept was so novel, in fact, that not even all military personnel were familiar with it. When Jack made the first helicopter landing at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, in 1944, the sailors didn't know what to make of the strange bird roosting there!
Following his training, Jack was assigned to the 1st Aircraft Repair Unit Floating (ARU-F), whose mission was to create a floating repair facility for Army Air Corps aircraft. The new helicopter was used to transport repair parts from ship to shore.
The Scout motto, "Be Prepared," served Jack often during his mission. Once, while landing the helicopter on the ship's small flight deck, the helicopter became caught in the ship's downdraft and crashed. Jack helped a passenger escape the wreckage and stay afloat when his life preserver failed. For his heroism, Jack earned the Soldiers Medal. He credited his Scouting background, including earning merit badges and experiencing the patrol method, as having helped him develop the instinct and skills he used during the rescue.
After the war, Jack took a job with an aeronautic engineer who was working on a new type of helicopter. He eventually became a test pilot for the developing aeronautical technology. In 1955, Jack and his partner -- a Cessna helicopter -- became the first to successfully land and take off from the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. Among his other astonishing feats in a helicopter were seven world records set for speed, altitude, and distance, two of which still stand!
When compared with today's mighty military aircraft, the early helicopters may seem crude. But Jack's pioneering work in helicopter technology helped researchers of today learn how the aircrafts could more easily overcome weight and control problems. WWII-era pilots who performed experimental flight operations faced danger daily and had to be physically fit and mentally awake to survive.
The Scout Oath and Law became the words that Jack Zimmerman lived by. He did his best at all he attempted, performed heroically in the face of danger, and never gave up.