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.
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Archive for October, 2011
QUANG TRI, Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Aug. 6, 2011) – Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam veteran Jon Cavaiani hands out candy to the Montagnard children of Vietnam. Cavaiani, a witness to the Hickory Hill Assault in the remote hills of Vietnam, provided first-hand knowledge of the battle to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command which helped narrow down the specific site location for future missions. (DoD photo by Mr. Thiep Van Nguyen II, Forensic Photographer/Released)
The attached image and several others, viewed through the above link, tell a story of JPACs efforts to bring home our MIAs, still unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. As you view the beautifully captured images, you will see that recovery efforts – frequently conducted under difficult conditions — demand dedication, stamina and belief in the idea that our MIAs are not dispensable.
Often, JPACs operations are duly noted by the locals, including children, who live in rural areas and rarely see foreigners, like Jon Cavaiani, whose smile and lollipops no doubt were a big hit. What the kids don’t see, however, is that the man known as Staff Sgt Cavaiani, USA, served two years as a POW in North Vietnamese prison camps — “Plantation Gardens” and “Hanoi Hilton”– before his release in 1973. Cavaiani was awarded the Medal of Honor on December 12, 1974, from President Gerald Ford, for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action in the Republic of Vietnam on June 4 and 5, 1971….”
Interestingly, Cavaiani wasn’t even supposed to become a soldier. A naturalized citizen in 1968, he was declared 4-F because of an allergic reaction to bee stings. Somehow the Brit turned American citizen figured out a way to by-pass the bee problem and ended up in the front lines with the Army as a Special Forces security expert in clandestine operations. Read more
1968: Jerry is having fun with our son, Craig, at NAS Beaufort in SC, where he trained in the F4, before deploying to Southeast Asia. During one of his hops, the nose cone fell off and landed in the ocean off the coast of South Carolina. Jerry flew the aircraft back to the base and landed without incident, but it was a memorable event.
Senator Jim Webb, [D-VA], recently went on record, saying that he wanted the US Government to freeze $1 million in annual funding to the Vietnamese government for assistance with their search, recovery, identification and repatriation of Vietnamese MIAs. Vietnamese officials reportedly have said that they will focus only on North Vietnamese and Vietcong MIAs, not South Vietnamese MIAs who fought on the other side during the war.
Senator Webb has a long history of involvement with Asian affairs, including a much decorated military career as a Marine Corps officer who served in the Vietnam War. In recent years, he married a South Vietnamese woman, who was able to leave Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in the mid 1970s. Understandably, Senator Webb has a deep-seated personal and professional interest in seeing that U.S. funds given to the Vietnamese government for their MIA efforts are divided fairly, regardless of allegiances during the Vietnam War.
“This project must ensure fair treatment to MIAs from the North Vietnamese Army, the Viet Cong, and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam,” Webb said in a prepared statement. “However, according to information provided to my office, discussions between USAID and the Vietnamese government indicate that former ARVN soldiers are not counted by the Vietnamese government as among the missing, and therefore are not included in this project,” said Webb in a recent Washington Post article.
As a family member of an MIA still unaccounted for in Vietnam, I sympathize with Vietnamese in America, who are spearheading efforts to find missing loved ones and friends in Vietnam. Many say they want to ensure that their MIAs receive a proper burial according to Vietnamese culture. Read more