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 November, 2011
JPACs Ron Ward (R) and his Vietnamese counterpart hiked to Jerry’s and Al’s crash site in 2009 to conduct an investigation, which led to reopening the case. You can see that the site is surrounded by jungle, making the work hazardous — especially in 100 degree temperatures. This an American and Vietnamese humanitarian effort at its best.
The world of locating, repatriating and identifying the remains of our MIAs may not be perfect, whether we are talking about those still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, Cold War, Korean War or WWII, but overall it’s a pretty good system.
I have learned a lot in recent years about the successes, challenges and overwhelming devotion required to bring home the remains of our MIAs from the Vietnam War, including those of my first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer, whose remains have yet to be found. Here are a few insights that I have picked up along the way.
1. A thorough, accurate (on- and off-site) investigation, performed by JPAC, is a must to determine the likelihood that it contains one or more of our MIAs and should be placed on JPACs Excavation List. A number of people, ranging from Vietnamese farmers to veterans who have knowledge of an MIAs whereabouts, may be invovled in the investigation process.
2. It is estimated that approximately one-third of the remains found during excavations in Vietnam are likely to be identified as our MIAs, according to an unofficial study. No remains leave Vietnam until an anthropologist from JPACs Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) in Hawaii arrives in country to perform preliminary tests with a Vietnamese anthropologist. Together, they determine the genesis of the remains.
3. Most sites require more than one visit by an excavation team to properly vet for remains, especially when the site involves a jet crash with a debris field the size of a football field. I have been told that this accurately describes my first husband’s crash site. Read more