My first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer, was an F4B Phantom jet pilot, whose aircraft was shot down on August 29, 1969, approximately 20 miles South of Da Nang, Vietnam, after six months in country. Neither Jerry nor his navigator, 1st Lt. Al Graf, was able to eject, before the aircraft crashed into the Que Son Mountains. Initially Jerry and Al were classified as Killed in Action/No Body Recovered (KIA/NBR). Years later, both Marines were listed as MIA, along with other service members whose bodies were never recovered.
Jerry has been gone nearly a half century, and hope for recovering his remains had run out a long time ago. However, in recent years our family became involved with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), now merged with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and learned that Jerry’s and Al’s remains might, in fact, be recoverable, so we are doing everything possible to support their efforts to make this happen and bring our guys home where they belong.
NOTE: BLOG POSTS ARE NOT UPDATED, SO INFORMATION MAY HAVE CHANGED OVER TIME.
Archive for August, 2010
Flashback — Vietnam War: Retired Maj Gen Wayne Rollings, a Marine 2nd Lt. in 1969, hung out the door of a USMC CH-46 over the Que Son Mountain jungle on Aug 29th, with his “Sailfish” Recon team, waiting for the F4s to roll in and clear a landing zone so that he and his men could be inserted into “Indian Country” by helicopter. The F4s from VMFA 542 in Danang arrived first, with Jerry serving as the flight leader and Maj Jack Gagen as his wingman – Jack had just arrived in country for his second tour and was getting reoriented to the area. Jerry was completing his first bombing run, when his aircraft was hit and drove into the area’s mountainous terrain. Neither he nor his RIO, 1st Lt. Al Graf, were ever seen again.
41 Years Later — Peacetime Vietnam: It’s Aug 20, 2010 – just 9 days before the anniversary of Jerry’s and Al’s death. I’ve just arrived at JPACs base camp, located below the guys’ crash site in the village of Son Vien. This is where the American team and its Vietnamese counterpart, both of whom are working on the excavation, will be living until the first week of September. I have dreamt of this moment for a long time but had no idea what it would feel like, or if I’d be able to keep it together long enough to thank everyone for their efforts. But the people who do this work, whether military or civilian, are extraordinary —they made it easy for me. Read more
After many hours of travel — 30+ or more — I arrived in Vietnam on the 18th and am currently in Hoi An where I will be based for the next three days.
This afternoon, I will visit the base camp, to meet our excavation team and its Vietnamese counterpart. The rain has been torrential since my arrival. In fact, last night it rained so hard that if the wind were blowing, I’m sure it would have been monsoon conditions. I’m certain that many of our Marines, who spent a tour or two in Vietnam, remember those hellish rains.
Hoa, my interpreter, checked in this morning, so no disconnects there — however, the day is young.
A word about traveling alone in Vietnam. The people have been extraordinarily nice to me. I’m traveling light but am transporting one heavy suitcase of junk food and libations for the team. I was sure this suitcase wouldn’t make it, either because of aircraft changes or thirsty luggage handlers. But all arrived in good shape.
I don’t know if the weather has been bad since the team began excavating, but rain is a huge disadvantage. Although I hope they’re having some success, I am more concerned about their spirits than anything else. Nothing boosts a team spirits like finding possible remains. The work is exceptionally difficult, so I hope to let them know of our family’s appreciation, no matter what happens in the end.
I will try to send a blog after my visit to the base camp and give you an update; however, it’s always ify as to the reliability of my Internet connection — so far, so good, though.
Thanks for checking in!