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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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MIA IN VIETNAM — GOOD NEWS FOR RECOVERY OPERATIONS!

Thursday, March 15, 2012 @ 10:03 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

A growing concern about a slowdown — or even worse — in MIA recovery operations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia appears to have taken a 180 degree turn, according to the latest update from the National POW/MIA League of Families.  Rather than trying to extract the important points, I have pasted in the pertinent sections and hope you will take a little time to read this good news.  

Although there will be changes in future recovery efforts in Southeast Asia, I am hopeful that decisions will be made with thoughtfulness, especially towards the families of Vietnam War MIAs who have worked with the League, JPAC, DIA and other organizations for years.  Together, they have developed a world-class recovery/identification program that has not only benefitted our loved ones in Southeast Asia but all other MIAs as well.   The League’s update is cause for optimism, and I am sure that most Vietnam War MIA advocates will agree! 

March 12, 2012 Update

National POW/MIA League of Families

www.pow-miafamilies.org/

ACCOUNTING COOPERATION: Joint Field Activities (JFAs) are now underway in Vietnam, the largest such operations in some time, including six recovery teams and two investigation teams. Joint Advance Work took place from February 27th until March 8th, and full scale investigations and recoveries began at multiple sites on March 9th. Until now, theUS had largely failed to respond to the Vietnamese government’s 2009 proposal to the League to increase the pace and scope of such operations. This pace must be continued and, where possible, further expanded to enable getting answers before witnesses are no longer available and remains have disintegrated even more due to the acidic soil in the region.

For the first time in years, DIA’s POW/MIA specialist in Laos, Dustin Roses, is participating in joint field operations, conducting interviews of sources with potentially useful information. While this is an important step toward fully utilizing this specialist and, though long overdue, the Lao government has yet to agree for him to conduct such interviews outside the timing of JPAC field operations. The Lao Government’s objections have continued despite the fact that allStonyBeach interviews would be fully coordinated with the Lao government, and trips outsideVientiane would be in the company of a designated Lao official. The League is hopeful that this initial step will demonstrate to skeptical Lao decision-makers that this highly qualified specialist is focused solely on POW/MIA matters and there is no viable rationale for limiting his ability to help locate information useful to the accounting mission.

A successful JFA was recently completed in Cambodia. One JPAC recovery team and a trilateral investigation team worked with Cambodian counterparts, the first such operations in Cambodia this year. More investigations and recoveries should be scheduled in FY12, instead of completing only one per year, as has been the norm in recent years. With only 54 US personnel still unaccounted for in Cambodia, and six or so incidents located and awaiting excavation, an all-out push by the US, ably assisted by Cambodian officials whose cooperation is the most highly praised, could actually achieve “fullest possible accounting” objectives in the near term. Expectations must be reasonable and tempered by knowledge of the horrors inflicted by the Khmer Rouge on the Cambodian people.

STATUS OF JPAC FUNDING & PERSONNEL: According to JPAC Commander MG Steve Tom, USAR, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs Bob Newberry, full funding for FY12 scheduled operations should not be a concern. According to Mr. Newberry’s letter to the League, dated January 4, 2012, “…the Department increased funding for JPAC beginning in 2012 to meet the statutory requirements to increase accounting for missing Americans from all past conflicts and will continue to support the program to meet the emergent North Korea requirement. There should be no effect on JPAC operations in Southeast Asia as a result of a lack of funding.” That assurance is welcome, but there are some aspects that raise questions; namely, what about 2013 and beyond in this era of budget cuts? And, though assured there is no funding obstacle to the pace of Vietnam War accounting operations, JPAC could change schedules, especially if the assured funding does not arrive in JPAC accounts before deadlines for making go/no-go decisions. This situation warrants very close monitoring. The League thanks each of you who wrote Members of Congress to urge full funding for POW/MIA accounting organizations to accomplish the mission.

JPAC PLANNING EXERCISE: Beginning this coming week, some officials within JPAC will meet to discuss long-term plans to fulfill their interpretation of the accounting mission. Again, though planning is always a good thing, including contingency planning, any expansion of operations to recover Korean War and WWII personnel known dead must not be the result of reducing Vietnam War accounting operations. As previously noted in League Updates, there are some advocating a “Super CIL” approach, with little to no consideration of conditions and circumstances. Momentum is building to resume recovery operations in Burma/Myanmar, offering the prospect of bilateral humanitarian cooperation, a prospect the League has advocated and welcomes, but NOT at the expense of reducing Vietnam War accounting effort. As above on funding and personnel concerns, this is something to closely monitor and to ensure that Members of Congress understand the need to simultaneously pursue accountability for personnel missing from all wars.

CHANGES COMING TO DPMO: There has long been the need for changes in DPMO and it is clear that there will shortly be a new Deputy Assistant Secretary replacing Bob Newberry. It is no secret that the League has strongly supported additional funding and personnel for JPAC to enable expansion of field operations. This entailed opposition to some DPMO initiatives that would have meant engaging in operations, rather than providing the policy guidance and support for which DPMO was established. A major factor that caused united action by the major national veteran organizations and the League was DPMO’s attempt, backed by DoD and others, to control the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs and subsume it under DoD-controlled working groups as part of a broader “reset” in US-Russian Federation relations. Whomever is selected as Mr. Newberry’s replacement, it is hoped that he/she will not fall victim to listening to those in DPMO whose vision was not shared or supported by those of us most directly affected, the POW/MIA families and our nation’s veterans.

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