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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LEATHERNECK MAGAZINE: JULY 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010 @ 01:06 PM  posted by Elaine
July 2010. p. 40-41

NUMBER CRUNCHING COULD HURT MIA RECOVERY EFFORTS IN VIETNAM
–By Elaine Zimmer Davis

Turf battles are nothing new, but when it comes to repatriating the remains of America’s MIAs, no one—government officials, veteran organizations or affected families—wants to favor one war over another. And while the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2010 embraces the MIA issue, it may inadvertently have done just that.

How to deal with MIAs from the Vietnam War is posing a dilemma. At issue is a mandate in the NDAA pertaining to “Missing or Deceased Persons” in military or defense-related positions, dating back to World War II. The mandate stipulates, “Beginning with fiscal year 2015, the POW/MIA accounting community has sufficient resources to ensure that at least 200 missing persons are accounted for under the program annually.” In short, the Joint Prisoner of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC), headquartered in Hawaii, must increase its identification numbers to meet the quota.

In FY 2009, JPAC made 98 identifications, with 26 individuals from the Korean War, 19 from the Vietnam War and 53 from WWII. Ironically, WWII, which began in 1941, produced the most results, while the Vietnam War, nearly two decades later, lagged far behind. During a recent excavation outside of Saigon, JPAC’s Lieutenant Colonel Todd Emoto, United States Army, Commander of Detachment 2 in Hanoi, discussed the challenges facing the organization in Vietnam.

“Remains are degrading at an alarming rate due to the acidity of soil, climate and other post-depositional processes, in comparison to other parts of the world,” said LTC Emoto. “The quantity of the remains that we find in Southeast Asia is normally small in comparison to other areas in which JPAC operates. Many times, a single tooth or a small bone fragment will allow JPAC to identify a missing American here.”

VVA and JPAC leadership: L-R:  Dan Tucker; Gary Jones; Maj Rafael Candelario, USMC; LtCol Todd Emoto, USA; Capt Ernest Nordman, USMC; Jack Devine, Bill Duker; Grant Coates; and Bui Van NghiEnroute to Saigon excavation site, March 2010: VVA and JPAC leadership: L-R: Dan Tucker; Gary Jones; Maj Rafael Candelario, USMC; LtCol Todd Emoto, USA; Capt Ernest Nordman, USMC; Jack Devine, Bill Duker; Grant Coates; and Bui Van Nghi

 JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory (CIL), the largest forensic anthropology laboratory in the world, is in the hot seat to speed up the identification process of all recoveries. Located in Hawaii, the laboratory’s growing responsibilities now cover missing persons from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the Cold War, as well as support of many humanitarian, foreign and educational partnerships. Staffed by more than 30 anthropologists, the CIL will see some relief with a new facility in 2014, but there can be no slowdown in the interim. While making strides with new technology, the laboratory continues to cope with a variety of shortages. Top on the list is the need for families to submit mitochondrial DNA to help reduce the time-consuming identification process.

Unless a solution is forthcoming, JPAC and affiliated agencies may be forced to take the path of least resistance to “make the numbers” in compliance with the mandate, which could lead away from MIAs in Vietnam. “We are at a crucial time for the MIA issue in Vietnam. The clock is ticking quickly, and soon, accounting for some of these individuals by locating and recovering their remains will become markedly more difficult or even impossible for the very MIAs upon which this entire effort was founded—our Vietnam War POW/MIAs,” said Emoto.

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