Most Americans have seen still photos or film, either real or cinematic, of the Allies’ D-Day assault on the coast of France during World War Two. While those images are dramatic and informative, only those who were there can truly speak to the horror, and bravery, that occurred on those beaches. Fallen Tuscarawas County hero George Timmerman was there and gave the ultimate sacrifice in order to defeat fascism.
George Timmerman’s parents moved from West Virginia to Ohio in the late 1800s, a few years before George’s birth in 1906. George’s father, Henry Timmerman (1849-1916), was a stone mason by trade and had settled his family in Perry Township, Tuscarawas County. Henry married Lurena Peoples (1864-1931) in 1890 and the couple were blessed with nine children, seven of whom survived childhood. George was the youngest of the family.
When Henry died, George was only ten years old and was attending school in nearby Newcomerstown. Lurena maintained the home and the two eldest sons, Adam and Austin, worked as a stone masons to help make ends meet for the family into the 1920s. George graduated from Newcomerstown High School in 1925; his quote in the yearbook read: “All work and no play, is the cost of a diploma.” Following graduation George found employment at the Reeves Factory in Dover, Ohio and he, and his mother, moved into his now-married sister’s home there.
The Reeves Factory employed George as a galvanizer during the decade leading up to World War Two. He never married, and lodged in a home on Race Street in Dover when he registered for the draft in October 1940. In spite of his age, he was over 30 at the time, he was ultimately drafted for service in April 1942. George, along with other draftees, was transported to Fort Hayes, Ohio to begin training and receive assignments.
George was assigned to serve in a combat engineer unit then undergoing training at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia as a component of the 29th Infantry Division. The unit was eventually designated the 121st Engineer Combat Battalion and George was assigned to Company B. The battalion continued its training at a number of installations stateside before being transported to England in the fall of 1942. George, and the rest of the 121st, arrived at Tidworth Barracks, Wiltshire, England in early October 1942.
Preparations for the Allied invasion of Europe were underway and the 121st would play a pivotal role. The combat engineers, including George, were going to be responsible for breaking through the German coastal defenses to allow Allied troops to move off the invasion beaches as quickly as possible. This meant that elements of the 121st would have to be among the first Allied troops to land on the heavily defended beaches.
The 121st Engineer Combat Battalion, to prepare for that role, took part in numerous amphibious assault training exercises along the English coastline. There were at least sixteen such exercises between January 1944 and D-Day in June. Once the invasion plan and date were set, the 121st was moved to ports to board vessels and load equipment. George, along with the rest of Company B, boarded their transport on June 3. Their destination was a beach on the Normandy coast now designated “Omaha.”
The majority of the 121st Engineer Combat Battalion landed on Omaha Beach on June 6 around 7:10 am, along with the 1st Infantry Division’s 116th Infantry Combat Team. Two platoons of Company B of the 121st, including George, were among the first Allied troops to hit the beach. Losses were heavy, in terms of both men and material, in these early hours of the invasion. Nonetheless, the 121st was able to fulfill its mission of opening gaps in the German defenses. Unfortunately, among the day’s casualties was Private George H. Timmerman.
The first information George’s family received about him after the invasion was that he was missing-in-action. His death was not confirmed until August 1944 when his family was notified by the War Department that he had been killed during the initial wave to take Omaha Beach. During high school George’s nickname was “Tiny Tim”, but his service and sacrifice for his country was anything but small.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.