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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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MIA REPATRIATIONS: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? (PART TWO)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 @ 08:07 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

An F4 ejection seat, mechanic's disarming device was presented to JPAC and helped to confirm that we had found Jerry's crash site.

If JPACs efforts are severely reduced in Vietnam, I believe that only the most viable cases will be worked, and the others might get pushed back. Unfortunately, there are some problems that require a super human effort to overcome; namely, the reality of bad logistics–as in site location, which probably describes many of the cases yet to be worked. Although location has been a challenge since the beginning, JPAC has been able to use helicopter transportation for difficult-to-access areas. However, for the past 8 mo. (approx), helicopters have been permitted only to transport supplies, not ground teams, because of safety permits. I’m sure this issue will be resolved in the future, but in the meantime, it is even more important that these sites have everything else in their favor. A well-researched case that has a good chance of success will get JPACs attention.

MOST IMPORTANT, TAKE OWNERSHIP OF YOUR LOVED ONE’S CASE. GET INVOLVED. BECOME A WILLING PARTNER TO JPAC. IF YOU ARE PASSIONATE AND CONFIDENT ABOUT YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS, THEN YOU NEED TO INJECT “NEW LIFE” INTO A CASE THAT HAS BEEN ON THE BACK BURNER FOR FOUR DECADES.

MIA Case Preparation: Becoming a quasi investigator is not brain surgery, but it requires a great deal of organization, research and networking with military sources, many of whom knew the MIA in question and may be able to contribute valuable information. In our family’s situation, we conducted an extensive investigation from home, such as contacting possible witnesses to the crash and obtaining now declassified squadron and unit Monthly Chronology Reports and incident reports. After gathering all this data, we were able to identify the actual location of Jerry’s crash site, before we traveled in country and confirmed our information. In addition, we had help from local sources in Vietnam that did a door-to-door search. The process is tedious, but if you can hand JPAC an airtight case, then your MIA may have a better chance of coming home.

WWII Easy to Love: Searching for MIAs in most WWII locations is a completely different situation. Our allies are willing to help America find its MIAs, for what I suspect is a pittance compared to costs in Vietnam. Also, the number of recoveries is typically far greater when you realize how many Marines and soldiers crewed on the big bombers of the day. Taking all of this into account, you can see why number crunchers like searching for MIAs in WWII locations.

America Wants Out of Vietnam? The unlikely, but worst case, scenario in my mind is the possibility that our government wants out of the repatriation business, especially in Vietnam. What’s interesting to me is that a number of our Marines and soldiers have fathers and grandfathers who served in Vietnam—some of whom never came home. What kind of message would this be sending our troops in Afghanistan and beyond? Does anyone think that our military wants number crunching to take precedence over our Marines and soldiers who paid the ultimate price for the mission?

Vietnam Vets Stand By! If it weren’t for Vietnam vets, I doubt that global repatriations would still be ongoing. If I have learned anything in the past two years, it is the power that the collective voices of the VFW and, particularly, Vietnam veterans have had on the American psyche–they were responsible for the return of patriotism in America. I hope our Vietnam vets will step up once again, if the warriors left behind in Vietnam need their help. I doubt that anyone in America can do it as well as our Vietnam vets. I am so proud of this generation of heroes.

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