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 September, 2011
Ron Ward, JPACs Casualty Resolution Specialist in Hanoi at Detachment II, says the new Vietnam Recovery Teams will allow JPAC to speed up recovery efforts in Vietnam, primarily in FY2012. But as always, funding will determine how many VRTs will be working in the field.
JPAC is preparing to ramp up efforts in search of our Marines and soldiers left behind in the Vietnam War. Some might say, so what else is new? Actually this is a big development in the world of MIA recoveries, considering that many of us with family members still unaccounted for in Vietnam thought we might be in trouble – translation: Facing a battle, not a win, waiting to hear if U.S. Government officials would approve JPACs request for additional funding in its FY2012 budget to meet expanded global commitments. The Nat’l League of POW/MIA Families and many other groups fought hard to keep Vietnam on the schedule, since efforts were being increasingly diverted to WWII and Korean War locations.
It appears that those pleas were heard, and JPAC will get the necessary funding to keep working in Southeast Asia. But the scope of the job necessitated that JPAC get creative with recovery efforts in Vietnam, where the work has always been difficult and the results less spectacular for a variety of reasons, many of which have been beyond JPACs control.
Moving forward, the Vietnamese will take more of a lead role in performing excavations, according to JPACs Commander, Maj Gen Stephen Tom, USAR, who spoke recently at the annual Family League meeting in D.C. about Vietnam’s record of success in recent years with unilateral excavations. Dr. Robert Mann, Director of JPACs Forensic Academy, began training the Vietnamese several years ago in basic archaeological techniques, and the Vietnamese proved to be good students. This gave JPAC confidence that they were ready to take the next step, which led to the creation of the Vietnam Recovery Team (VRT) model. The name is a little misleading, since the teams will not be composed totally of Vietnamese, but rather include one of JPACs anthropologists, a medic, linguist and other specialists, such as an explosive ordnance disposal technician, if needed.
Pictured is Elaine Zimmer Davis and Maj Gen Drew O’Donnell, aboard the Davises boat. Elaine and husband, Ron — a Marine veteran helicopter pilot, hosted Drew and his family for an afternoon of cruising on San Diego Bay.
Drew recently took command of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. He is one of the many Marines who embodies the generational spirit within the Corps.
The joke among Marines in the early years was that if the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one. Not to minimize difficult times and uncertainty that all military families face, the notion of generational careers within Marine Corps families remains strong and wives traditionally have played an important role.
It is not uncommon to find second and third generation Marines spread throughout the world. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting such a Marine – Maj Gen Andrew O’Donnell, Jr., who will soon take command of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA.
The Change of Command ceremony for O’Donnell is slated in late September, with Maj Gen Thomas Conant, current commander of the 3D Marine Aircraft Wing, heading for Hawaii to serve as Deputy Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM). Conant will pin on his third star and become the first Marine ever to serve as second in command of USPACOM.
My husband, Ron, met O’Donnell, who is known in the Marine Corps community as “Jr.” but introduced as “Drew,” a couple of years ago at a Quiet Birdman (QB) meeting at the San Diego hangar. For those who are not familiar with the QBs, it is an organization that has been around since 1921 and known for attracting a diverse membership of high time aviators, including the likes of Red Baron and Charles Lindbergh.
The QBs have several chapters throughout the U.S., called hangars, where members meet monthly at a restaurant for the sole purpose of sharing stories about flying. Typically the QBs invite noted pilots to share their experiences, too. Addressing an audience of savvy pilots, a guest speaker traditionally has topnotch flying credentials. A helicopter pilot, named Marine Corps Aviator of the Year in 2000, Drew did not disappoint the QB crew when he spoke of today’s Marine Corps flight program. Read more