Captain Zimmerman, born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, 1 April 1899 attended grade and high schools in Adams, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the US Navy in March 1917, and served during World War I. In July 1918 he was appointed to the US Naval Academy, Annapolis Maryland, by Congressman Allen T. Treadway of Massachusetts. Graduated and commissioned Ensign in June 1922, he subsequently progressed in grade until his promotion to Commander, 1 January 1942, and Captain, 21 June 1942.
After graduation, Captain Zimmerman served the following six years in destroyers. In 1928 he had flight instruction at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, and was designated naval aviator (lighter-than-air), 5 November 1929. He completed the postgraduate course in Aeronautical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Cambridge. From 1932 until 1935 he served consecutively in the airships USS Akron and USS Macon.
Captain Zimmerman served as Navigator of USS Arkansas from 1939 until 1942. The following year he commanded the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, New Jersey, during the initial stages of the expansion in lighter-than-air training and operating facilities at that station. Early in 1943, he commanded an Airship Wing in the Gulf and Caribbean Area. For his services as Commander, Airship Group 2, from 1 March 1943, until 15 July 1943, he received a Letter of Commendation with authorization to wear the Commendation Ribbon from the Secretary of the Navy. From 1943 until 1945, he organized facilities and set up an Airship Wing in Brazil. Operational sites were located along the entire Brazilian Coastline of about 2400 miles and were strictly advanced bases. For his services in connection with that Airship Wing he was awarded the Legion of Merit.
In June 1946 Captain Zimmerman assumed command of USS Macon (CA-132).
In addition to the Legion of Merit and the Commendation Ribbon, Captain Zimmerman had the Victory Medal, and is entitled to the American Defense Service Medal; the American Area Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.