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 ‘Moving Toward Vietnam Excavation’ Category
I have spent hundreds of hours researching and writing about Jerry’s case, and I knew of the possibilities and was prepared for JPACs findings. The site is still open, and a team will return in the future. But at the end of the day, there are no guarantees. There’s also a chance that Al’s remains may be found and not Jerry’s—or vice versa. There were two young men who lost their lives, and if one should return and not the other, we will have accomplished something good. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
I have come to know the people at JPAC, both in Hawaii and at the Detachment level in Vietnam. They take their job of MIA recoveries very seriously. I have no doubt that everyone worked hard to find our loved ones, as they do for every other MIA family; therefore, I want to thank them for the enormous effort that each excavation involves. Read more
At this point, we know from our Vietnamese contacts that the site was not closed upon completion of the excavation. We also know that the team found more life support gear, which is consistent with what the JPAC investigative team found several months ago, prior to reopening the case. Otherwise, we are like everyone else, waiting to hear if any human remains were found.
While waiting is difficult, it’s also part of the overall process. My guess is that our case will not be completed soon. Having spent a lot of time conducting online research to learn about the ins and outs of repatriations from Vietnam, I know that JPACs Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii is tasked with determining identifications of remains. They use a variety of techniques to reach a conclusion, derived from dental, osseous and historical evidence. In Jerry’s and Al’s case, we hope that the mitochondrial DNA that both mothers provided many years ago will eventually be able to assist the lab, should remains be found.
For me, the journey to find Jerry’s remains has been a labor of love. Jerry was the father of my son, Craig. In turn, Jerry was the son of wonderful parents—all our lives have continued to be interconnected for over 40 years, because we all loved Jerry. For me personally, coming to terms with Jerry’s death has been an interesting experience, to say the least—heartbreaking and encouraging. Periodically I’ve asked myself if I was looking for closure. The answer for me has always been, “no.” I closed Jerry out of my life many years ago, because that’s the only way I could go on. I had cried a million tears and ran away from the horror of losing Jerry in a horrific way that had no ending. I had a family that needed me, and they became my priority in life. Read more