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

Helicopters in the Air Again— JPAC Searches for MIAs in Laos

Monday, June 6, 2011 @ 07:06 AM  posted by Elaine

>For more Laos images, which are extraordinary – CLICK HERE

Laos has always been considered one of the toughest areas in Southeast Asia to conduct field operations in search of our MIAs, as one can see from the above JPAC images. The terrain is unforgiving and nearly inaccessible in much of the country. However, it appears that JPAC has received a CARB waiver, allowing them once again to transport teams by helicopter to locations in Laos. I expect that families will hear more about the helicopter issue , as it pertains to all Vietnam War locations, at the upcoming annual POW/MIA Family League Meeting in D.C. next month.

In simple terms, helicopters transporting JPAC teams were grounded about a year ago due to the lack of CARB compliance, which meant that helicopters in Vietnam and Laos did not comply with our government’s requirements for transporting DoD personnel. This situation placed many operations—especially in Laos— on the backburner until recently. Shortly after the helicopters were grounded, I remember hearing about an operation led by Major Ed Nevgloski, an active-duty Marine, serving temporarily as Commander of the Laos Detachment, until the assigned replacement arrived. Major Nevgloski and team members hiked for two days to an MIA crash site in Laos, moving through nearly impenetrable jungle and limestone studded trails, without any helicopter assistance. Needless to say, Ed and others won’t forget that hike anytime soon.

Here is an excerpt from a press release posted, June 1, 2011, on JPACs website, explaining the current operations in Laos: “A trilateral investigation team with personnel from the U.S., the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam will investigate sites in the Khammouan, Salavan, and Savannakhet provinces in search of five Americans. Additionally, two multi-service military and civilian recovery teams will excavate a helicopter crash site and aircraft crash site searching for 11 Americans that remain unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. The approximately 35-day deployment marks the 118th Joint Field Activity in Laos.”

While 90% of our MIAs were lost in Vietnam, several hundred disappeared in Laos, too, where the CIA was conducting major operations, as were many of our own military stationed in Vietnam–especially from jet and helicopter squadrons. According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), there are still 328 Americans unaccounted for in Laos; however, 25 are in a “No Further Pursuit” category, which means that they’ve been determined as not recoverable. However, we know that Jerry’s and Al’s case was classified as “No Further Pursuit” until we produced new evidence, giving JPAC reason to reactivate their case. Early-on in our investigation, I remember Ron Ward, the Casualty Resolution Specialist in JPACs Det 2 in Hanoi, telling me that unresolved cases are never really closed, even if they are placed in the “No Further Pursuit Category.” Ron’s words stayed with me, and oddly enough they proved absolutely true in our case.

2 Responses to “Helicopters in the Air Again— JPAC Searches for MIAs in Laos”

  1. David Brookshire says:

    God bless the JPAC Teams and guide them to remains of our fallen hero’s.

  2. Thanks, David — JPAC really does care. This is very difficult work, as you can imagine. We lost a lot of Air Force guys, too — glad you made it home. Elaine


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