From the 1943 archives: Duane Zemper once held this incredible world record

Howell’s beloved Duane Zemper was the man of the hour once again on Sunday, as his larger-than-life statue was unveiled at the Carnegie District Library.

Folks in Howell remember “Zemp” as a World War II hero; a photographer who captured the community’s memories for posterity; and as a star track athlete.

But did you know that Zemp also held an amazing world record?

It’s true. Back in 1943, when he was an Army cadet training in Florida, Zemper set the world record for sit-ups. His close friends have always known this fact about Zemp, but the exact number of sit-ups that he did – and the time it took him to set the record – have fluctuated.

Duane Zemper during World War II, when he set the word record for sit-ups.

We went back into the archives to find out the answer.

According to this story in the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post on July 3, 1943, Zemper did 1,111 sit-ups in an hour and 45 minutes. According to the story, “Duane L. Zemper set some sort of a record at the Cadet Basic Training Center that probably no other soldier will be very anxious to break. He completed 1,111 sit-ups while three of his classmates watched.”

Sat, Jul 3, 1943 – Page 10 · The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Florida, United States of America) ·

But this story in August 1943 upped Zemp’s total.

Sun, Aug 8, 1943 – Page 23 · Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, United States of America) ·

And here is a photo of a framed memory of Duane Zemper apparently breaking his own sit-up record(s) three months later, in October 1943.

According to this, Zemper completed 3,450 sit-ups in three hours and 42 minutes:

Zemp, as with everything else you accomplished in your life, we’re impressed.

You can read about the Duane Zemper statue by clicking here.


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The Livingston Post is the only locally owned, all-digital information and opinion site in Livingston County, Mich. It was launched by award-winning journalists who were laid off from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus by Gannett Co. Inc. in 2009.

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