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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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DID AMERICA ABANDON ITS WWII MIAs FOR VIETNAM?

Sunday, July 11, 2010 @ 03:07 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Marines raising the American Flag on Iwo Jima, Feb. 23, 1945.

Like many Americans, I did not know until recently that our government began one of the largest wartime recovery efforts in history, 65 years ago—long before the Vietnam War began. This effort was undertaken from 1945 to 1951, on behalf of WWII soldiers and Marines.

According to the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO)–which now develops and manages policies involving recoveries of missing Americans in wartime locations, the WWII effort involved some 13,000 personnel and cost $163.8 million in wartime dollars.

As the branch of the service responsible for all U.S. service casualties, the U.S. Army created the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) with a global initiative known as “The Return of the WWII Dead Program.” AGRS successfully identified 280,000 individuals, before the program closed in 1951, leaving approximately 79,000 unaccounted for or buried at sea. In 1976, the Department of Defense became involved at some level with ad hoc recovery teams, whose efforts helped in the identification of over 570 more WWII MIAs. And while private efforts continued, it doesn’t appear that our government had an official role for some time.

Why the government ceased official efforts in 1951, forcing families and dedicated private groups to undertake missions of their own to locate more MIAs is anyone’s guess. Certainly the Korean War (1950-1953) could have had some impact on the government’s effort, but America has frequently dealt with multiple conflicts around the world, as is the case today.

But in all likelihood, the U.S. Government was let off the hook in its commitment to WWII MIAs when public pressure was no longer at an urgent level. It took several years for families to demand action from our government, but in 2005 offical search efforts resumed for WWII MIAs. Today JPAC and other groups are actively identifying and repatriating lost loved ones from WWII, and all Americans should support this noble effort.

But it’s obvious that Vietnam was not the reason that WWII repatriations fell short of their goal; however, now we’re potentially facing a new challenge with the need for doubling the number of MIA identifications by 2015. Will this cause America to abandon MIAs in Vietnam to search for MIAs in WWII locations?

One Response to “DID AMERICA ABANDON ITS WWII MIAs FOR VIETNAM?”

  1. Gary Zaetz says:

    The challenge of doubling the number of MIA identifications by 2015, as mandated by NDAA FY 2010, can be met fairly only by one option: WWII, Korea, Cold War, and Vietnam MIA families must work together to demand an immediate and massive increase in appropriations so that the number of JPAC recovery detachments can be multiplied by a factor of ten or even 20. In that way, we can achieve a huge increase in annual recoveries and identifications for all conflicts. MIA recovery must truly become the high national priority that our country claims it is, but hasn’t actually made since the years immediately after World War II….Gary Zaetz, nephew of World War II MIA 1st Lt. Irwin Zaetz (USAAF), missing in action January 25, 1944.


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