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.

Twitter

Vietnam Map

Partly Cloudy
High 83°/Low 77°

Da Nang, Vietnam Current Weather

NOTE:  BLOG POSTS ARE NOT UPDATED, SO INFORMATION MAY HAVE CHANGED OVER TIME.

JERRY’S EXCAVATION HAS BEGUN!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 @ 09:08 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

All the sites now being investigated or excavated during JPACs 100th JFA (Joint Field Activity) in Vietnam appear on this slide, including Jerry and Al's site (RT2). This slide was included in LTC Todd Emoto's presentation to the attendees at the recent League meeting in Washington, D.C. (Double click to enlarge)

We have good news! JPACs recovery team is excavating Jerry’s and Al’s crash site right now, and they will continue looking for remains throughout the month of August, into the 1st week of September. Words cannot adequately express our family’s gratitude for all the support we’ve received throughout this two-year journey to bring home Jerry’s remains from Vietnam. Everything counted, believe me— from the hundreds of emails, to the boots-on-the-ground in Vietnam. Asking people to dredge up the past or pulling newcomers into this saga, was beyond the call, but everyone came through for Jerry. I hope we’re successful in bringing home his remains, but no matter what happens, we have all gone the distance together. Thank you so much.

I have been cleared by JPAC and its Vietnamese counterpart to visit the base camp, located below the crash site, close to the village of Son Vien. I want to personally thank the men and women who are working on the excavation in unbelievably challenging conditions. Getting to the crash site is considered moderately difficult, despite the 25-35 minute daily hike up the mountain, along a narrow, rocky trail, and I doubt that coming down is a cake walk. The area has been cleared of unexploded ordinance and jungle brush, but no one ventures off the trail or away from authorized areas, for safety reasons. Probably the worst part is the sauna-like heat. As many Vietnam vets will recall, it is unbelievably hot this time of year in the Central Highlands. In fact, the team’s heat meters on the first hike clocked above 106 degrees relative temperature!

We have been very fortunate that LTC Todd Emoto, USA, Commander, Det 2, is still in country, because of a three-month extension on his tour! While I was at the League meeting in Washington, D.C., LTC Emoto was recognized for his leadership that has produced excellent results during his two-year tour in Vietnam. Although Major Ed Nevgloski, USMC, former Deputy Commander, Det 2, has transferred back to Quantico, we will always consider that his efforts–especially during the investigation–were critical to proving the viability of our case.

Even though I’ve never met the key people who will be leading Jerry’s excavation, I have been told that JPACs Sean Tallman is the site’s anthropologist, and Captain Joe Hamer, USMC, is the team leader. They’ve been described as a “great team,” and I am looking forward to meeting them at the base camp. Unfortunately, I cannot make it to the crash site; I tried getting their in March 2009, but I slowed everyone down and eventually went back to the village. However, that unfinished hike was one of the defining moments for me, throughout this ordeal. As I hiked along, trying to keep up with Mr. Du—the gazelle-like, former Viet Cong, who kept disappearing beneath the jungle brush—I thought about our ground troops—the grunts—who lived in those jungles, 40 years earlier. I kept thinking to myself, “How did they get out alive?” The heat was oppressive, and I wasn’t carrying any gear, or looking for snipers, booby traps and whatever else, along the way. I’ll never forget that day. It gave me a deeper understanding of courage and sacrifice that was bigger than just saying the words.

I will be in Vietnam a very short time. In fact, I’ll probably be in the air, more than on the ground. I was able to get the last seat, in the very back row, of a Korean Air flight. In addition to meeting the JPAC excavation team, I will visit the people in the village to thank them for helping us find Jerry’s crash site. Then I will travel to Det2 in Hanoi to thank the guys in the Joint Operations Center (JOC), who track the day-to-day happenings in the field. They make sure that the anthropologist and team leader have everything they need for the job. In turn the people in the field file daily updates with the JOC so that LTC Emoto can keep JPAC headquarters, based in Hawaii, in the loop.

I will try to send a couple of blogs from Vietnam. I hope you will check back. Your prayers would be appreciated.

15 Responses to “JERRY’S EXCAVATION HAS BEGUN!”

  1. Manoj Cherian says:

    Hi Elaine,
    Wishing you and the team who are assisting you the very best as you try to fulfill your mission to “Bring Jerry Home”.
    Our prayers are with during this difficult period and let the good Lord above give you the strength and resolve to persevere in your efforts in a far away land.

    Love & Prayers.

    Merly & Manoj Cherian

  2. Jerry Norton says:

    Congratulations Elaine and best of luck with your upcoming trip back to Vietnam. Hopefully all your hard work will meet with a quick resolution to the recovery of Jerry’s remains.

    Jerry Norton

  3. Thanks, Jerry–hope to see you again in S.D. in the near future. Please stay tuned.

  4. Manoj,

    Thank you for your support and prayers. As a warrior, you understand the importance of not forgetting the men and women who have fought for our country.

    My best to you and Merly.

    Elaine

  5. Gail Kaye says:

    My son is a photographer with this team searching for Jerry. I pray they bring hime home!

  6. Gail,
    What a wonderful surprise to receive your email. Your son definitely is a special person–his job is incredibly difficult, and I appreciate his efforts, along with everyone else on the team. Thanks for your prayers. Best regards, Elaine

  7. Ken Dower says:

    Elaine – Tough it our girl. The end will be what it will be. Stand tall and be proud of your quest for Jerry, both for you,Ron and the boys and Al’s family. Semper Fi.. x/o – Ken

  8. Thanks, Ken. I’m enroute to VN and saw your message. Great to hear from you. I have a brief layover in Seoul–I think you remember Korea well!! You’re a huge hero, too. Best, Elaine

  9. Ken & Dottie Dower says:

    Elaine – The service at Arlington. The thought of a revisit there to bring Jerry all the way home is exciting to say the least. – Ken & Dottie

  10. Mike West says:

    Good luck Elaine. Mike Barksdale and I will be at General Mike Neil’s 70th this afternoon at the Beachcomber. We will hoist a “libation” to you, Jerry, and Ron. Remebering those rains, I can’t say that I would like to be there with you!

    Semper Fidelis.

    Mike

  11. Thanks, Mike — Happy Birthday to Mike N. Three “Mikes” at the Beachcomber is dangerous! The team working on Jerry’s site is a great group.
    See you soon. Elaine

  12. Bill Duker says:

    Good luck, Elaine. All of us with the VVA POW/MIA Committee and the Veterans Initiative Program want to send our best wishes and support. We fondly remember our visit with you and JPAC to the crash site near Saigon last March and our dinner with you and Gene. We are confident that JPAC will do everything to succeed. They are the best.

    Bill

  13. Hi Bill,
    Having a little trouble with my emails, but it was great to hear from you. So far, no big revelations, but you know how these things go. We still have more time, but I’m guessing this won’t be a one-shot deal. Stay tuned. Give my best to the guys. Elaine

  14. Ken & Dottie,
    Arlington sounds good to me. I cautiously optimistic. Thanks for checking in. Elaine

  15. Merly & Manoj,

    Please keep praying — this is a tough one. I’m still hopeful, though. Thank you for your nice note. Elaine