Our Mission:

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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ABOUT ME — Vietnam Enters My Life (PART THREE)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 @ 08:06 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

I was familiar with Vietnam, long before most Americans ever heard of the country. Our family’s close friendship with a Vietnamese priest for many years may have been a blessing (literally) when I would later lose Jerry in the Vietnam War. (Please check-out Part Two).

Over the years, Father Oanh was sent to the most prestigious Cathedrals in the United States and apparently became involved with efforts to rid Vietnam of the communists. The only thing I remember him telling me was that some of his friends in the American military called him Father “Joe.” However, I never asked him about his involvement with the war.

The last time I ever saw Father Oanh was when I brought him to Brown University in 1966 to meet Jerry, who was in his senior year. Unfortunately Father Oanh was not able to marry us, because he would be out of the country on our wedding day, but he knew that Jerry was heading to Vietnam to help the South Vietnamese people, after finishing Basic School and Flight School.

When Jerry was killed, I sent Father Oanh a letter, and I remember how defeated he sounded in his response, expressing sadness for Jerry’s death. In all the years that I had known Father Oanh, he always was optimistic about Vietnam’s future, but optimism was not enough to change the course of events. Unfortunately, he went back to Vietnam to be with his people after the war and was jailed for 10 years, like so many others who had fought against the NVA and Vietcong.

When I visited Vietnam in 2004, I met a nun in Saigon who said that Father Oanh had died approximately four months before my arrival. My memories of a vibrant young man soon diminished when the nun told me that he had never recovered properly from his years in prison. Then she showed me a picture of Father Oanh, and I knew it was him, because his eyes were still kind but everything else revealed signs of an aged man who had endured great struggles. My heart was broken for this good person, and I will remember him always for enriching my life in so many ways–even though the Vietnam War took a horrific toll on the family who had adopted him many years earlier and that of so many other Americans.

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