Truman Kimbro (1918-1944)

Posted 5/25/20

Truman Kimbro (1918-1944) was born in Cottonwood community, about six miles west of Madisonville. His parents, Tom and Lema (Wilson) Kimbro, raised eight children. The family members were “dirt farmers” (another term for tenant farmers) and moved often. After working hard, they were finally able to purchase 160 acres in the Center community. The land lay about a mile west of Highway 90 near FM 1452. Neil Lindsey lives near there now, and when roads were renamed due to 911 Emergency Management, personnel asked Lindsey about naming it Lindsey Lane. He suggested Kimbro Lane instead, and that’s what it is.

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Truman Kimbro (1918-1944)

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Truman Kimbro (1918-1944) was born in Cottonwood community, about six miles west of Madisonville. His parents, Tom and Lema (Wilson) Kimbro, raised eight children. The family members were “dirt farmers” (another term for tenant farmers) and moved often. After working hard, they were finally able to purchase 160 acres in the Center community. The land lay about a mile west of Highway 90 near FM 1452. Neil Lindsey lives near there now, and when roads were renamed due to 911 Emergency Management, personnel asked Lindsey about naming it Lindsey Lane. He suggested Kimbro Lane instead, and that’s what it is.

Truman was 15 when the family moved to Center. His younger brother, T.C., later remembered them walking across pastures to the old Center School. Though Truman was a good student, his interests lay elsewhere, and he quit school after seventh grade. He was quiet, agreeable, and unassuming, with a big grin. The family’s older sons were courting by the time they all moved to Center, so most of the chores fell to Truman and T.C. He enjoyed fishing, hunting and whittling, becoming an expert whittler. Once he won first place with a hand-carved entry in the Madison County Fair, and he made excellent guitars and fiddles. He loved to play those instruments, but he wasn’t as talented at making music as musical instruments.

Truman attended Fellowship Baptist Church regularly, and that’s where he met Marjorie Brimberry. They dated throughout her senior year of school. Later she moved to Houston to work at Oshman’s Sporting Goods store, and Truman followed her to work for a family dairy. They married October 8, 1941, when she was 21 and he was 24. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, and Truman was drafted into the Army several days later. His military records show that he entered the service in Houston, though Madison County claims him as a native son.

Kimbro was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for basic training, and he trained stateside for three years, in Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin. He liked the army and wrote about it in letters home. Finally, he was shipped overseas. He was a Technician Fourth Grade in the 2nd Engineers Combat Battalion of the Second (Indianhead) Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He and his unit first entered combat on D-Day, June 6, 1944, on Normandy’s Omaha Beach. Elements of his battalion were the first to go ashore at Omaha Beach where the deadliest fighting of all took place. Kimbro was not among the first 69 men and one officer that waded ashore ahead of all troops and under withering fire, but he soon followed.

The Second Engineers Combat Battalion cleared mine fields, built bridges, repaired roads, and sometimes fought as the infantry. After many days on Omaha Beach, the attack continued to the south across France. During that time, Truman Kimbro’s C Company was attached to the 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, as part of Task Force “B” (Bravo). They rolled into Paris at the end of September, bivouacked briefly, and then continued the attack turned to the northeast and Belgium.

During the furious German assault against Krinkelt, Belgium - before the 38th Infantry was ordered to withdraw - T/4 Kimbro led a squad assigned to set mines at a vital crossroads near Rocherath, Belgium. When first attempting to reach the objective, he found it occupied by an enemy tank and at least 20 infantrymen who laid down withering fire and drove Kimbro and the squad back.

He made two more attempts to lead his men to the crossroads, but all approaches were covered by intense enemy fire. Although warned by our own infantry of the great danger, he left the squad in a protected place. Laden with mines, he crawled alone towards the crossroads. When nearing his objective, he suffered severe wounds but continued to drag himself forward. He laid his mines across the road and tried to crawl away, but his body was riddled with rifle and machine gun fire.

Enemy fire was so intense that it actually rolled his body off the roadway. Though he lost his life, the mines he laid delayed advance of enemy armor and kept the enemy from attacking our withdrawing columns. He died Dec. 19, 1944, at the age of 25.

After his death, Kimbro’s widow said in an interview that the last letter she received from him had been written Dec. 11. In it he told of a boy in his outfit who was getting to come home. He wrote, “I could never be that lucky.”

Kimbro was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on May 24, 1945. He was also recognized with the Purple Heart, which is awarded to members of the military who are wounded or killed in the line of duty.

He was buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery of Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, near Henri-Chapelle, Belgium. His grave can be located in Plot F, Row 6, Grave 28. The cemetery is huge, containing the graves of 7,992 members of the American military who died in World War II.

Kimbro’s Medal of Honor was issued May 24, 1945, while our troops were still fighting. Surely some positive feelings existed due to Germany’s May 7 surrender, but “we” did not drop the atomic bombs in Japan until August that year, and the Japanese officially surrendered Sept. 2.

One Museum newspaper clipping focused upon an interview with the hero’s widow soon after she learned of the Medal of Honor. She voiced surprise that the only medal her husband ever won was our nation’s highest honor. She wondered if Truman wouldn’t have preferred things to have been simpler, and she said he probably would have said that he had only done what every American would have done.

Another yellowed clipping shows three-star General Eugene Reybold placing the MOH hanging from a ribbon around Marjorie Kimbro’s neck. Truman’s bereaved parents also attended the ceremony in Houston, and at least one brother, Private Melvin Glyn Kimbro, from Army training in Camp Wolters in Mineral Wells. Sisters Maudine Kimbro Raley and Idell Kimbro Phillips were there too, the latter surely sorrowful plus worried about her husband, Ercel Phillips, serving in the Army.

Truman Kimbro’s parents and two brothers are buried at High Prairie Cemetery near me. As told in a previous article, Melvin Glyn Kimbro was a private in the U.S. Army and T.C. Kimbro served as a staff sergeant in the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

Truman Kimbro left no children. His mother was born a Wilson, from a prolific family and related to many Wilsons, Kyles, Donahos, and Boneys from around here – and me, since my mother was a Wilson and a cousin of Lema Wilson Kimbro. Idell Kimbro Phillips, mother of Manford “Chet” Phillips, was Truman Kimbro’s sister, so there are more and younger relatives through Chet’s five children.

Kimbro has been honored and his courage celebrated in passing years. After World War II ended, a cargo ship was renamed USAT Sgt. Truman Kimbro. She served the Army first, then the Navy and was sold for scrapping in October 1982. Here in Madisonville, the Truman Kimbro Texas Historical Marker and Convention Center were dedicated May 7, 1995. In Belgium, not far from where Kimbro died, a racquetball facility was named for him, at the Brussels American School in a township there called Steerebeek. In 2010, the Truman Kimbro Facility Steerebeek Annex, was rededicated in his honor. An annual racquetball tournament held there was named for Kimbro, to raise awareness of his actions.

The Museum has several Truman Kimbro items on exhibit. One photo shows him holding a guitar. His Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, and other medals and military medals and pieces are framed together. A few more personal Kimbro items have been loaned or given to the Museum.

One postcard was sent June 1, 1942, from Fort Wood, Missouri, while Truman was still in training stateside. Addressed to his sister-in-law Mrs. E.L. Phillips, it reads “Dear Sis…I have been nearly sick the whole week. I got some trash in my eye Monday and had to go to the hospital to get it out. My eye was swollen up like someone had given me a black eye….”

A copy of a faded Christmas card depicts a helmeted soldier with his lower body in a mailbag being mailed from Berlin. It looks to me like one distributed to servicemen in Europe to send home. Truman scrawled on it “Hello Sis…I sure wish I was back there…Maybe I’ll make it next year…”, and signed “Love, Truman”. He never spent another Christmas with his family or anywhere. He didn’t survive even one Christmas season in Europe.

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