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 February, 2013
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Whenever Marine aviators, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War, got together – whether they flew fixed wing or helicopters, the sky was the limit and pushing it was the norm, as in no guts, no glory. As the wife of an F-4 Phantom pilot killed in combat, I witnessed the early stages of what became a life-long bond among a special subset of Marine pilots and Radar Intercept Officers (RIOs), who flew the F-4, a supersonic fighter jet with a proud 30-year Marine Corps history.
Although their style might not be perceived as politically correct by today’s standards, these Marine aviators had an indomitable lust for life that made them and the F-4 legendary. Undoubtedly, that can-do spirit rubbed off on some of us who lived — even for a short time — within this tight-knit, Marine Corps community.
In November, 2011, Maj Gen Mike “Lancer” Sullivan pushed out a thousand emails across the Internet, ultimately forming a database that best explains how the idea of organizing the first all-Marine F-4 Phantom Foray turned into reality a year later. Several hundred Marine aviators and guests descended upon San Diego, November 1-4, 2012, and although now history, the Foray was a powerful reminder that this popular fighter jet may be gone, but the connection among the aviators who flew her is still very much alive.
This blog is about three Marines, who rekindled the camaraderie of an era when the Phantom ruled and its aviators lived up to expectations in the air and on the ground.
The Marine Corps’ high regard for the F-4 had a lot to do with its long service and versatility — but to a group of young, cocky pilots, it was the hottest jet of the day, having already set 16 World altitude and speed records by 1962 when it arrived at the first two Marine squadrons. Over time, the Marine Corps had 25, F-4 squadrons until production of the aircraft ended in 1992. As a career Marine, Lancer flew F-4s in five different squadrons, and the same applied to his long-time F-4 buddies, Col. Bob “Fox” Johnson, and Col. JP “Monk “ Monroe, who teamed up with him to help make the Foray happen.
Middle of the action – Lancer & Fox
Monk & the Capellupos
Although unable to attend the first All-Marine F-4 Phantom Foray, I connected with Lancer, Fox and Monk, the three guys whose efforts brought back the era of the F-4 Phantom that so many aviators and aircraft support personnel in the Marine Corps still cherish. My thanks go to them for sharing the details of this successful, four-day event.
Like most reunions, I know you had to be there to really appreciate the celebratory atmosphere, but interviewing these guys was a celebration in itself, as demonstrated by their enthusiasm for the Foray. I want to thank them for remembering F-4 brothers, like Jerry & Al, whose lives were cut short in Vietnam many years ago, with a beautiful memorial service that drew over 300 Foray attendees prior to their departure.