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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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Vietnam POW/MIA Leader, Ann Mills Griffiths, Stepping Aside?

Monday, April 25, 2011 @ 02:04 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

League Executive Director Ann Mills Griffiths (middle) at the 2010 annual League Meeting in Washingto, D.C.

Executive Director Ann Mills Griffiths (center) with POW/MIA families at the 2010 League Meeting in Washington, D.C.

I just finished reading the latest newsletter, published by the National League of POW/MIA Families, which is authored by Executive Director Ann Mills Griffiths, who has served in a leadership capacity for the past 33 years. Griffiths is well known among League families and probably anyone else involved with efforts to bring home our POWs and MIAs from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

I called the League in D.C., caught Ann in her office and spoke with her briefly, mentioning that I was concerned about her intentions to step aside as the League’s Executive Director on Aug. 1, 2011. Ann told me that she is hoping to stay connected, if re-elected to the League’s Board of Directors; however, Ann wants to reduce some of her 14- to 16-hour-a-day schedule. Since few people have Ann’s contacts in political circles at home and abroad, I am hoping that she will continue to serve on the League’s Board as the point person for US and foreign officials .

Although I don’t know Ann personally, except for a brief introduction at last year’s annual League meeting in Washington, DC, I have been told that she is either liked or disliked in POW/MIA circles. But after talking with mutual friends, I am convinced that personality conflicts aside, Ann plays an important role at the League’s political level. Unfortunately I’m learning that the fate of our MIAs seems to be all about politics—especially as it applies to the ones who disappeared in North Vietnam. Sadly, Ann’s brother—Navy LT JG James Mills is one of our MIAs that never came home after his aircraft was shot down in 1966 over North Vietnam. Lt JG Mills served as a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) aboard an F4 Phantom – the same aircraft in which my first husband, Capt Jerry Zimmer, USMC, was shot down in South Vietnam.

Lt JG Mills was serving his second tour in Vietnam, aboard the USS Coral, and he and his pilot may have gone down over water. Unfortunately, our government has had a difficult time gaining access to the Vietnamese and Russian archives to learn exactly what happened to Mills and others that were killed or captured in the North.

But if Ann’s brother did crash over water, she and others may learn of their loved one’s fate in the near future. In the past couple of years, JPAC has teamed up with the USNS Bruce C. Heezen, one of the military’s six Oceanographic Survey Ships, with the hope of finding water losses. This is a very exciting venture, and I’m hoping that new technology will help locate the aircrafts of our MIAs that have been submerged at sea for decades. I am sure that Ann and other families have not given up hope.

In her spare time (which remains to be seen), Ann will be co-authoring a book about the League’s long-time role in helping to bring home our POWs and MIAs. Considering her credentials, among which include a TOP SECRET clearance, I am confident that Ann and her co-author have the makings of a great book. I wish her a lot of luck.

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