Our Mission:Jerry was an F4 Phantom 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 because of the altitude and trajectory of the aircraft. They were initially 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 – regardless of their original classification.
Although Jerry has been gone for four decades, our family learned that his remains might be recoverable, so we are doing everything possible to work with JPAC to make this happen and bring Jerry home to the United States where he belongs.
Posts Tagged ‘LtC Todd Emoto’
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.
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