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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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To Russia Without Love

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 @ 04:02 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

The relatively new/old Russian flag is a reminder that change is possible in this country, so maybe there is still hope that Russia will open its old military archives freely to help us locate our MIAs from past wars.

Almost four decades after the Vietnam War ended, we’re still trying to work with the Russians to learn about our MIAs left behind in Vietnam and other past wars. In 1992, the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA affairs was established, providing an exchange of vital information about MIAs for both sides. Hope was at an all-time high with heavy-hitter U.S-Russian participants eager to engage. But the commission’s track record has not lived up to expectations, and the future does not look promising.

For the U.S., we knew the commission offered a pathway to access of Russian military archives. For Vietnam-era families this group was a godsend, since most military history buffs agree that the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) would never have succeeded in controlling the country had it not been for the Russians. Aside from providing training, planes, missiles—and a lot more—Russia is believed to have documented every aspect of the air war over North Vietnam, consisting of information about aircraft/pilots that were shot down, killed or captured and occasionally imprisoned in Russia. In the bigger picture, access to Russian military archives is vitally important to determining the fate of thousands of Americans from World War II through the end of the Cold War.

Most of our pilots that flew up North during the Vietnam War were Air Force or Navy—it was extremely dangerous. Jerry’s limited experience flying in North Vietnam typically was to escort a photo bird or conduct some type of reconnaissance. The Marines’ mission was primarily in the south and dedicated to close air support for the ground troops.

Although there have been some accomplishments by the USRJC, resulting in finding archival information and visits to Soviet detention facilities and camps, it is my understanding that the U.S. has given a lot more than received in return. And with so much focus now placed on the Obama Administration’s US-Russia Bilateral Commission, it appears that defense concerns are overshadowing MIA research efforts—you would think that both countries could walk and chew gun at the same time! Families of MIAs lost over North Vietnam deserve to know what happened to their loved ones. Remember, all of these forgotten MIAs were someone’s husband, brother, uncle or father, doing what their country asked of them. In the end, they were never heard from again.

The USRJC has a seemingly good infrastructure, so I cannot imagine why we would let it fall into the dark pit of DoD bureaucracy now! This is a battle worth fighting.

2 Responses to “To Russia Without Love”

  1. Jack Scott says:

    I am a Viet Nam Vet also, dont know what I can do but I think we have left a lot of our guys behind. I am retired and living in the Dominican Republic so I probably cant do much to help. What can I do?
    God bless your work and our MIA’S.

  2. Jack — just knowing you care means a lot to families like mine. Thank you for taking the time to send me a note. My best, Elaine


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