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.

Twitter

Vietnam Map


Da Nang, Vietnam Current Weather


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

VIETNAM RECOVERIES: MIA Excavations – A New Era

Saturday, September 10, 2011 @ 10:09 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Ron Ward, JPACs Casualty Resolution Specialist in Hanoi at Detachment II, says the new Vietnam Recovery Teams will allow JPAC to speed up recovery efforts in Vietnam, primarily in FY2012. But as always, funding will determine how many VRTs will be working in the field.

JPAC is preparing to ramp up efforts in search of our Marines and soldiers left behind in the Vietnam War. Some might say, so what else is new? Actually this is a big development in the world of MIA recoveries, considering that many of us with family members still unaccounted for in Vietnam thought we might be in trouble – translation: Facing a battle, not a win, waiting to hear if U.S. Government officials would approve JPACs request for additional funding in its FY2012 budget to meet expanded global commitments. The Nat’l League of POW/MIA Families and many other groups fought hard to keep Vietnam on the schedule, since efforts were being increasingly diverted to WWII and Korean War locations.

It appears that those pleas were heard, and JPAC will get the necessary funding to keep working in Southeast Asia. But the scope of the job necessitated that JPAC get creative with recovery efforts in Vietnam, where the work has always been difficult and the results less spectacular for a variety of reasons, many of which have been beyond JPACs control.

Moving forward, the Vietnamese will take more of a lead role in performing excavations, according to JPACs Commander, Maj Gen Stephen Tom, USAR, who spoke recently at the annual Family League meeting in D.C. about Vietnam’s record of success in recent years with unilateral excavations. Dr. Robert Mann, Director of JPACs Forensic Academy, began training the Vietnamese several years ago in basic archaeological techniques, and the Vietnamese proved to be good students. This gave JPAC confidence that they were ready to take the next step, which led to the creation of the Vietnam Recovery Team (VRT) model. The name is a little misleading, since the teams will not be composed totally of Vietnamese, but rather include one of JPACs anthropologists, a medic, linguist and other specialists, such as an explosive ordnance disposal technician, if needed.

Unlike when the Vietnamese conduct unilateral excavations located in proprietary areas – militarily or politically sensitive – and require JPACs experts to monitor the work from a remote location, the VRTs will place JPACs people within – not outside – non-proprietary sites. Although JPAC expects that most sites will be VRT approved, it is likely that some will be deemed too complex and, therefore, done by the traditional joint teams – JPAC and its Vietnamese counterpart, the VNOSMP. In addition, sites begun by JPAC and left open for future work, like the site of my first husband, Capt Jerry Zimmer, and his RIO, 1st Lt Al Graf, will probably remain a JPAC/VNOSMP effort.

The VRTs will allow JPAC to expand its efforts in Vietnam, save money and field more recovery teams to work throughout Vietnam War locations. The VRTs also are likely to give the Vietnamese a vote of confidence, which the U.S. Government appears ready to do in this new era of solidifying a relationship that says we’re friends, no longer enemies – maybe a stretch on my part, but certainly we seem to be headed in that direction.

Ron Ward, JPACs Casualty Resolution Specialist in Detachment II, was upbeat about the VRT concept when speaking to families of MIAs at the League meeting. He noted that the level of cooperation from the Vietnamese has changed: “It is better than it has been in years,” said Ward. After nearly 20 years in Vietnam, Ward is not loose with words.

If things go as planned – especially with the budget, JPAC will know soon enough if the VRTs are productive. In the recovery business, success can be measured in results.

Leave a Reply