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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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Archive for January, 2011

INSIDE JPAC – LITERALLY!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 @ 09:01 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

JPAC Hq in Hawaii is nondescript, except for the familiar signage, displaying the black and white image that has become the symbol for all POWs and MIAs lost in former wars, especially in Vietnam.

Like many others, I knew nothing of the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) until a few years ago—mainly because I had spent most of my life running away from the horror of losing Jerry, rather than in the other direction. After learning that Jerry’s remains might be recoverable, I changed course. At the time, I truly could not have imagined where this journey would lead me.

Although it was hard to open up to friends about the loss of Jerry after so many years, nothing was more difficult than asking JPAC for help in trying to recover Jerry’s and Al’s remains. Thanks to some very special people within the organization, our family learned how to maneuver through the system. While nothing is perfect—including JPAC—this is the group that we have come to rely upon and respect for doing a job that can be exceedingly thankless, not to speak of depressing, considering the number of MIA cases, left over from WWII, Korea, Cold War and Vietnam.

At first glimpse, JPAC is unobtrusive in its largely quiet location on Hickam. The organization is housed in several small buildings that form a rectangular maze. But when you see the familiar POW/MIA logo on one of the buildings, the site stands out among all others—especially to someone whose loved one is still missing in Vietnam.

Dating back to the 1970s, JPAC’s name may have changed over the years, but the organization’s goal has not. Nowhere is this commitment more evident than inside JPACs headquarters on Hickam AFB in Honolulu, Hawaii.

VISIT TO JPAC HAWAII

Thursday, January 20, 2011 @ 08:01 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Ron created a three-dimensional clay model of Jerry's crash site so that Elaine could better visualize the overall event and location (click to enlarge photo).

Ron’s and my recent visit to JPAC HQ in Hawaii gave me an opportunity to learn more about the organization that has become a major part of my life in the past few years, as well as to regroup on Jerry’s case. Well in advance of our visit, Ron made an appointment with Johnie Webb, Deputy to the Commander for Public Relations and Legal Affairs, and we lucked out with our timing and caught him at Hickam AFB where JPAC is located. We had an excellent visit that included a tour of the facility and a casual discussion about JPACs mission of recovering and identifying the remains of MIAs like Jerry and Al. As most of my blog followers know, our family has strongly supported JPAC, now under the Command of Maj Gen Stephen Tom, USAR, reporting to the Pacific Command (PACOM). We are grateful to have our active duty military leading the effort to recover our loved ones, since Jerry, Al and thousands of others gave their lives in support of our country.

Although we didn’t focus solely on Jerry’s case, I was able to fill in some of the post excavation blanks. Here is an update.

Jerry’s and Al’s excavation in August 2010 went as expected, meaning that no remains were found, but the team left with a lot of evidence that proved they were in the right place—a very important point, considering the debris field of an F4 crash!
Excavations of jet crashes often necessitate that teams leave these sites open if warranted by compelling evidence. This means that they intend to return at a later date and continue their work, which is why JPAC did not close Jerry’s and Al’s site in 2010.
When a site is left open, JPAC must make a determination as to the criticality of returning sooner or later. Normally, this determination is based on a number of criteria, not the least of which is concern about geographic location. Today, most of JPACs excavations in Vietnam are the toughest, involving downed aircraft in the Central Highlands, which is where the Que Sons are located. Home to a lot of Marines and soldiers during the war, I am certain most remember this dangerous area. Although it’s no longer a battlefield, the Que Sons are plagued with hellish monsoon rains, rugged landscape with crusted clay soil, impregnated with sharp rocks and triple canopy that used to hide enemy-controlled caves with 50 cal machine guns! But most destructive is the viral-like acidic soil that feeds on our loved ones remains and everything else–time is running out in Vietnam. Read more