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 the ‘Honoring Our Military’ Category
I want to thank the Mt. Soledad Memorial Ass. for inviting me to attend their 2014 Veterans Day celebration in honor of our POWs and MIAs from all past wars. It was heartwarming sitting among our POWs; I could not help thinking about the hardships they endured while serving our country. Yet, their patriotism still remains steadfast, as does their support for the return of our MIAs. For those present, especially the younger generation, I am certain it was an event that will not be forgotten.
Nov 9, 2014
U-T San Diego
By LORI WEISBURG
POW’S, MISSING IN ACTION REMEMBERED
LA JOLLA — Ask Richard Mullen about the harrowing six years he spent as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict and he’ll politely decline to reveal anything but the vaguest of details.
“I was taken to Hoa Lo — we nicknamed it the Hanoi Hilton — and I was severely beaten by the North Vietnamese,” he says almost matter-of-factly. He was 36 at the time, when the F-8 Crusader he was piloting for the U.S. Navy was shot down and he was forced to eject, landing him in a rice paddy.
Now 83, Mullen, who lives in La Jolla, said he still has residual pain from the physical abuse his captors inflicted on him.
“Your wrists are in manacles, with old fashioned screws to tighten them, and there were ropes that cut off the circulation on your arms, but I really don’t want to get into that,” he said. “It was very extreme and inhumane.”
Mullen was among some 20 POWs honored Saturday during a noon ceremony sponsored by the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, which also recognized the local families of those still missing in action.
While the association regularly holds special ceremonies each year to honor local veterans, Saturday’s event was the first specifically dedicated to POWs and those who had been declared missing in action, said association president Bruce Bailey.
The ceremony, with the towering Soledad cross and curved walls of more than 3,000 black granite veteran plaques forming the backdrop, brought together service members from multiple wars and their family members on a sunny, unseasonably warm afternoon.
The Marine Corps Recruit Depot brass quintet performed, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” were sung, and a moving flyover by the T-34 Team of pilots, in the “missing man” formation, arrived from the west. A replica of a recently installed plaque honoring the prisoners of war and the families of missing in action from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam was also unveiled.
While paying tribute to the POWs and the “isolation and deprivation” they suffered, keynote speaker Capt. Dan’l Steward also recognized the family members in attendance.
“Behind every better man and every better woman stands family,” said Steward, a former Navy SEAL and now Special Operations Subject Matter Expert to the Office of Naval Research. “Without family support, our servicemen and women would not be able, or frankly, as willing to sacrifice for the greater good. You, the families are part of the unique fabric that embodies the American willingness to fight and preserve the freedoms we have inherited and cherish.”
Elaine Zimmer Davis was the young mother of a 2-year-old son in 1969 when she learned that her husband’s F-4 Phantom had crashed while on a bombing mission to clear dense jungle in South Vietnam. Initially designated as “killed in action,” Jerry Zimmer later was reclassified as missing in action. During the last decade, Davis, long since remarried, has traveled several times to South Vietnam and visited the original crash site in hopes of “bringing Jerry home,” as she has named her blog dedicated to that quest.
For years, she said she sought to block out the memories of what happened to her late husband but more recently held out hope of possibly recovering his remains. It doesn’t appear, though, that will happen now, she said.
“We’re close to the end game here. It’s not looking really good,” said Davis, who attended the Mount Soledad ceremony. “You have to keep at it, you can’t give up. I won’t give up on helping others finding their loved ones, but if they tell me, ‘Elaine, we can’t find anything,’ I’ll be grateful they tried.”
Mullen, like many other Vietnam-era prisoners of war, relied on his religious faith and a special tap code the men all had learned in order to communicate with one another. He returned home in the spring of 1973 as part of “Operation Homecoming,” as did U.S. Navy Capt. Ernest Moore, who Mullen said was the senior commanding officer on his flight out of Hanoi.
Moore, a speaker on Saturday, reminded those attending that there are still some 1,600 Americans from the Vietnam War who are unaccounted for.
“I can only offer you to believe as I believe,” he said, “that they rest in peace and that you will some day be joined once again with them.”
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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.