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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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Hello from Vietnam #2

Monday, March 22, 2010 @ 12:03 AM  posted by Elaine

A local policeman was present during my visit to Du's home.

My trip to the village of Son Vien below Jerry’s crash site was very worthwhile, not because I learned a lot more  about the crash, but because it gave me an opportunity to understand the people who live in the area and how the war impacted their lives. 

Last time, I was able to talk with Mr. Du without the presence of a policeman, but that was not the case this time — the village policeman sat in on our conversation which changed the atmosphere.  (Last year that policeman was supposed to be present, as well, but he was getting married on the day we visited.  I reminded the policeman that I had given him a wedding gift). 

Nevertheless, Du told me that the police had visited his home after I left last year and wanted to know about our conversation; consequently, he planned to make a report about my visit this time.  I also learned that Du is a communist, which is a big honor for Vietnamese, especially from the rural sectors.  There are perks for members of the Party, but I would guess that they vary according to stature. 

I was surprised when Du showed us a dog tag on his key ring that Gene and Bill said looked very authentic.  The name engraved on it was “Duffy, G.H. G. R., USMC, Lutheran, 2474841.”  When I get home, I will try to learn more about this Marine, but if anyone reading this blog recognizes his name, let me know.  Since Du is the village elder, I know his stature was earned early-on for his “work” as a Viet Cong — I had been told that those guys are revered by their countrymen.  I think Mr. Du was a tough guy in his earlier days, because it’s apparent that he still holds sway.

As we sat talking, with Anh translating, it was apparent that our conversation was lackluster, especially when I tried to get specific about his role as a Viet Cong.  I asked if the Americans had come through his village, to which he answered “no.”  I gathered that discussion was off limits.  I also asked about unexploded ordinance and the possible danger involved.  According to Anh, he said there was no ordinance.  Yet, while the guys were hiking around the mountainside, Mr. Bay indicated that the Vietnamese government would not allow anyone to go into the mountains for several years after the war ended because of unexploded ordinance.

More tomorrow!

Signing off from Hanoi

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