Skip to main content

Bruce Richard Zillmer Sr.

PVT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co D, HQ Platoon


Born 1918 in IL, Died 1995


County of residence at enlistment: Calhoun County, MI
Other residence(s): Grand Rapids, MI
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: commercial artists
College education before the war: Frederick Mizen Academy of Art 2 years
Notes: Formerly Co A
Source: 603rd Camouflage Engineer Roster provided by W. Anderson; 603rd Engineer Battalion Christmas Roster;  Bernie Mason Company D Roster; photo from Ancestry® (1935 high school yearbook)

Bruce Zillmer was born on March 4, 1918 in Lombard, IL, the oldest of three children. His father was an architect. By 1920 the family was living in Grand Rapids, MI; he was baptized there that year.

He attended East Grand Rapids High School in Michigan during his freshman year, Marion High School in Wisconsin for his sophomore year, and graduated from Central High School in Grand Rapids, MI in 1935. There he was a member of the Hi-Y Club, the yearbook art staff, and the biology club. The quote in his yearbook says of his artistic skills: "His pencil speaks louder than words."

When he registered for the draft, on October 16, 1940, he was a student at the Frederick Mizen Academy of Art in Chicago, IL. He married Barbara Faye Lewis on June 20, 1942, in Zeeland, MI and enlisted a little over a month later, on July 30, 1942. At the time he had completed two years of college, and was working as a commercial artist.

Bruce and Barbara's first son, Bruce Jr., was born in Maryland in 1943, before he went overseas with the Ghost Army. Like other artists, he found his way into the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion. While in Luxembourg he created a painting that appears in Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles' book, The Ghost Army of World War II.

In a letter to his wife on March 7, 1945, fellow Ghost Army soldier Harold Dahl wrote about Bruce as follows: "The place where I am now is very uninteresting so I am spending my money on a couple of things I want—one, a design for a book-plate. Bruce Zillmer is making it for me—when I send it home Lou can have them printed up." [Click on the link in the Sources section below to see an image of the bookplate.]

After the war he returned to Grand Rapids and his work as a commercial artist. He and his wife became the parents of two more children: Diana Grace and Kirk Alan.

Much of Bruce's artwork seems to have involved murals, sculptures, and other decorative elements for stores and restaurants in Grand Rapids. In 1957 he painted murals of grazing cattle, livestock, and poultry for the L&L Shoprite. In 1968, he decorated the Viking Room at Duck's Ocean House with plaques, wall carvings, and life-size figures made from plaster of Paris and papier-maché. In 1969, he created cut-out ceiling beams, woodcuts, and wrought iron light fixtures, railings, and door hinges for Jules restaurant and bakery. That same year he produced three-dimensional murals of the Matterhorn for the Matterhorn Restaurant.

Bruce died on February 4, 1995 in Lowell, MI (a city about 15 miles east of Grand Rapids). He is buried (along with his parents) at Oakwood Cemetery in Lowell.

His wartime work was included in a June, 2015 Ghost Army exhibit at the Salmagundi Art Club in New York City.


1935 high school yearbook; see link below.


1920 Baptismal record

1930 census

1934 high school yearbook

1935 high school yearbook (with photo)

1940 draft card

1942 marriage record*s9bsoi*_ga*MTM0MTU5OTU4LjE2NjQ4NDUyODU.*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MTY2NTQwMjkyMC4yMi4xLjE2NjU0MDM1NTEuMC4wLjA.

1942 enlistment record

1945 letter from Harold Dahl to his wife describing a bookplate Zillmer made for him

1950 census

ca. 1953 Baptismal record of 3 children

1955 Grand Rapids city directory

1957 article in the Lansing State Journal (MI) about murals he painted for a grocery store

1968 article in the Grand Rapids Press (MI) about carvings and sculptures he made for a restaurant

1969 article in the Grand Rapids Press (MI) about wood and wrought iron works he created for a restaurant

1969 article in the Grand Rapids Press (MI) about 3-dimensional murals he created for a restaurant

1995 Social Security death index*1nr5k19*_ga*MTM0MTU5OTU4LjE2NjQ4NDUyODU.*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MTY2NTQwMjkyMC4yMi4xLjE2NjU0MDM2NzMuMC4wLjA.

1995 Find a Grave record*6wvg2p*_ga*MTM0MTU5OTU4LjE2NjQ4NDUyODU.*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MTY2NTQwMjkyMC4yMi4xLjE2NjU0MDQwNTQuMC4wLjA.

Please Support Our Ongoing Efforts

The soldiers of The Ghost Army used inflatable tanks, sound effects, and imagination to fool the Germans on the battlefields of Europe. The Ghost Army Legacy Project is ensuring that these men and their accomplishments are never forgotten.

Give via credit card by clicking the yellow “Donate” button.

Or, send a check to:

Ghost Army Legacy Project
1305 S. Michigan Ave. #1104
Chicago, IL 60605

All donations are tax-deductible!