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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.

VIETNAM WAR: MIA REMAINS — GIFT OR GIMMICK?

Saturday, June 11, 2011 @ 10:06 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

This photo was taken during my visit to an excavation site outside of Saigon in March 2010 and does not pertain to the following blog; however, the photo does reflect the way in which JPAC locates most of our MIAs remains. When sites like the one in this photo are excavated, teams often find relevant material in addition to the remains, which can assist JPACs Central Identification Laboratory in the identification process. The anthropologist for this recovery mission was Kristen Baker, and the team leader Capt. Ernest Nordsman, USMC

One of the upsides to writing a blog about MIA recovery efforts in Vietnam is that I receive a lot of emails, encouraging me to stay with our mission to bring home Jerry’s remains — most communication comes from the contact form that’s accessible through the above navigation bar. One of the down sides about a blog like this is that I receive emails, asking me for help in areas that are out of my expertise or beyond my influence.

A couple of days ago, I received an email from a Vietnamese who appears to live in the southern portion of the country. He indicated that he was a student and his parents gave him “60 remains of American soldiers,” along with a “card” listing their names and other information. His reason for contacting me was that the remains needed to “come home.” I conducted a little preliminary research but was unable to verify the authenticity of his information. Even with my limited knowledge, I know it takes more than dog tags and basic information to prove that someone is holding 60 sets of remains.

Anything is possible, and this individual’s email may be legitimate; however, I know from conversations with others that bogus leads in the past have kept JPAC investigators from responding to locals who truly have remains of an MIA. It appears that more Vietnamese citizens are coming forward with remains of unaccounted-for MIAs, and I hope this applies to the current situation. Many Vietnamese understand how to contact the correct local officials to ensure that remains are presented to JPAC, but they can also go to the JPAC website (http://www.jpac.pacom.mil/) and get the information for making email contact.

It is my understanding that our government does not pay for remains, but most Vietnamese are still eager to have them returned home, often because of superstitions; it is unlucky to have a wandering soul (MIAs) in a village. This is one of the reasons that Vietnamese want their own loved ones returned home, as well.

I encourage the person that contacted me to follow-up with JPAC, who will know how to determine the viability of his information. If proved accurate, I will try to meet that person during my next visit to Vietnam and thank him personally for possibly bringing closure to several families.

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