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 the ‘Vietnam Crash Site’ Category
Had someone told me that my first helicopter ride would be in a Russian-made MI-17, launched from Da Nang Heliport in central Vietnam, I would have thought they were crazy. Yet here I am in an MI-17 on a surreal journey in peacetime Vietnam, flying over the Que Son Mountains, where the remains of my first husband, Capt Jerry A. Zimmer – a Marine F-4 Phantom pilot shot down during the Vietnam War on Aug. 29, 1969, along with his navigator, 1st Lt Al Graf, are believed to be located, possibly with others from both sides of the battlefield in this mountainous graveyard.
In many ways, I have relived this journey in my dreams — probably a thousand times during the past 40 years, but this is reality, and I am no longer dreaming. Ironically, my foray coincides with the long 2012 Memorial Day weekend in the United States. Although not planned around the holiday – or at all — I know that every Memorial Day in future years will take me back to this experience for the rest of my life.
I am here at this moment, thanks to the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), the government group responsible for bringing home our MIAs from past wars. I have been given a unique opportunity to visit Jerry’s crash site and to observe the American and Vietnamese teams, working side-by-side, as they conduct the site’s Phase II excavation. I am not here because the teams have found remains, although this could happen at any time. Yet in simple terms, the goal is to find Jerry’s and Al’s remains so that our respective families can repatriate them for burial in the U.S. and hopefully achieve some modicum of closure in the process. But as many people know, there is nothing simple about JPACs job, and I am soon to learn — although trite – no truer words have ever been spoken.