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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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The DoD Wants to “Redirect Resources” Away from MIAs in Vietnam

Saturday, May 15, 2010 @ 03:05 AM  posted by Elaine

After writing two blogs about my concern for the future of our MIAs in Vietnam, I ran across a troubling document online a couple of days ago. The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) completed an assessment (June 2009) of JPACs Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) and made several recommendations to the Secretary of Defense and others in the DoD.

Confirming my worst fears was the following recommendations, pertaining to MIAs in Vietnam:

“…the simplest way to increase identifications without reducing the number of Joint Field Activities (JFAs) would be to redirect resources from Southeast Asian recoveries to field operations for the other conflicts with a higher probability of remains recovery. “

The report goes on to say that resources could be increased in the South Pacific for air losses during WWII, Europe and “perhaps South Korea.” “Recovering more WWII sites would be fruitful because of the typically larger numbers involved with one site (often reaching as high as 20) and the comparatively low cost.”

No doubt, this study led to the mandate in the FY2010 Defense Authorization Act, requiring JPACs lab to increase MIA identifications to 200 per year. Again, this is not good news for our MIAs in Vietnam.

If the lab is released from its commitment to work on Vietnam MIAs, the increased identifications should not be a problem. Furthermore, if the lab is concerned about sending its anthropologists to increasingly dangerous sites in Vietnam, perhaps it’s time to evaluate the need for the lab’s top level scientists to work on field operations. It appears that the talents needed in the field are vastly different from those required in the lab where identifications are made, using historical data, DNA and other technology.

We are still getting remains out of Vietnam. The processes are improving, along with the numbers of identifications — maybe not the numbers that make for a splashy homecoming. And maybe the amount of remains doesn’t seem worth the effort to some people in Washington, D.C., but let’s get personal: how about if those remains belonged to your son, daughter, husband or brother, would you walk away without expending the effort to bring them home?

2 Responses to “The DoD Wants to “Redirect Resources” Away from MIAs in Vietnam”

  1. Mike West says:

    Thanks Elaine. I saw this yesterday, but didn’t realize that it was in “Leatherneck” until Ron wrote about it to the SDYC Marines yesterday afternoon. I shall forward to my TBS list. What do you suggest we do to ensure efforts to locate our Marine Brothers are adequately funded?

    S/F

    Mike

  2. Mike,
    Thanks for your continued support. At this point, I am monitoring the situation closely and am writing a follow-up blog to the Leatherneck piece about some of the issues that need to be resolved, in my opinion, to turn this around. This is not a good situation.


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