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.


Vietnam Map


My Visit To Jerry’s Crash Site

Saturday, June 9, 2012 @ 02:06 AM  posted by Elaine

Had someone told me that my first helicopter ride would be in a Russian-made MI-17, launched from Da Nang Heliport in central Vietnam, I would have thought they were crazy.  Yet here I am in an MI-17 on a surreal journey in peacetime Vietnam, flying over the Que Son Mountains, where the remains of my first husband, Capt Jerry A. Zimmer – a Marine F-4 Phantom pilot shot down during the Vietnam War on Aug. 29, 1969, along with his navigator, 1st Lt Al Graf, are believed to be located, possibly with others from both sides of the battlefield in this mountainous graveyard.

In many ways, I have relived this journey in my dreams — probably a thousand times during the past 40 years, but this is reality, and I am no longer dreaming.  Ironically, my foray coincides with the long 2012 Memorial Day weekend in the United States. Although not planned around the holiday – or at all — I know that every Memorial Day in future years will take me back to this experience for the rest of my life.

I am here at this moment, thanks to the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), the government group responsible for bringing home our MIAs from past wars.  I have been given a unique opportunity to visit Jerry’s crash site and to observe the American and Vietnamese teams, working side-by-side, as they conduct the site’s Phase II excavation.  I am not here because the teams have found remains, although this could happen at any time.  Yet in simple terms, the goal is to find Jerry’s and Al’s remains so that our respective families can repatriate them for burial in the U.S. and hopefully achieve some modicum of closure in the process.   But as many people know, there is nothing simple about JPACs job, and I am soon to learn — although trite – no truer words have ever been spoken.


18 Responses to “My Visit To Jerry’s Crash Site”

  1. Dianne W. says:

    Congratulations on your monumental accomplishment. There is something profoundly satisfying when you can stand at The Place. And so much more so when a team is onsite, working so hard to find Jerry and Al.

    This post is so meaningful and amazing. Your and your family’s efforts have brought the story so far in the past few years. We keep hoping to see them home.

    Tim (VMFA-542) and Dianne

  2. Tim & Dianne,

    Your comments mean so much to me, and I think you both know why — thank you so much. Love, Elaine

  3. Brett says:


    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your great photos. Having been SO close to the site but unable to reach it on my trip to Vietnam, I am glad for the additional perspective. I knew the way up was dicey. I was not aware that the actual site was equally as rugged.

    I too extend my thanks to the entire group from JPAC for their tireless commitment to a very worthy cause. Without JPAC in Vietnam, those families that are still seeking closure would have nowhere to turn for help. We are very lucky to have both hope and the possibility of bringing Jerry and Al home

    Great job mom! You never cease to amaze me. I am confident that you are the only mother any of us know travelling alone through Vietnam and flying into the Vietnamese jungle in a rented Russian helicopter. Well done!


  4. Thanks, BG — I want everyone to know that I did not pay you for those nice comments. One clarification, though — JPAC rented the helicopter, thank God! Love, Mom

  5. Craig Zimmer says:


    You are an inspiration to all of us and I am so proud of you. Also, I want to thank the men and women of JPAC for all their hard work and dedication to our cause. Even after 40 years, this mission provides a shining example to all Americans and the rest of the world that truly no soldier is left behind.



  6. Craig,
    I know this is hard for you in a lot of ways, since you never had a chance to get to know your dad. But I also know that you are absolutely correct in highlghting this mission as a shining example that JPAC is trying to live up to the promise of bringing home people like your dad who gave their lives in defense of our nation. Your dad was a hero. Love, Mom

  7. Tom and Max Blake says:

    Dear Elaine:
    Such a heartwarming story. Congratulations on the closure you must feel after all these years and all the countless hours you and Ron spent traversing all the hoops and curves in the bureaucratic roads you encountered along the way. Jerry’s family must be very grateful for all your loving efforts. I’m proud of my old roomie (Ron) for standing by your side along the difficult way. God bless you and Ron. Much love to you both from Alaska. Tom and Max Blake

  8. Barbara says:

    Dear Elaine,
    You didn’t need the photos, your skill as a word smith painted the experience so brilliantly…..but of course the pictures were good too. Thank-you for sharing your journey. God Bless, Barbara

  9. Eric Hudgens says:


    Thank you for continuing to share your journey of bringing Jerry home. I can’t imagine the emotions and frunstrations involved with this entire process. I hope you get the desired outcome, and it sounds like the people at JPAC are incredibly dedicated as well. It must take a very unique person to volunteer for duty with JPAC.

    Sounds like you had an incredible trip.

    Take care and good luck!!!!!


  10. Mike Mumford says:

    What a great contribution you are making, helping keep awareness of the country’s commitment to our MIA’s. It’s very touching to read. I can tell how proud you are of Jerry and although I didn’t know him, I am sure he would be just as proud of your efforts.

  11. Jim and Cadi Fuhler says:

    Thanks for posting this. Our son is the IDMT with the team and this is our first glimpse at what he’s doing. Made us proud and he volunteered because he wanted to make a difference.

  12. Eric,

    Our search for Jerry has been a true labor of love. At this point, it is anyone’s guess how this will turn out. It feels good to be trying, though. Love to your beautiful family, Elaine

  13. Barb,

    Thanks old friend — my photos will always pale next to yours — but you taught me a lot when we ran around the world for a story or two. Stay tuned in — don’t know what will happen, but a few prayers are welcome. Love, Elaine

  14. Mike,

    Thank you for your sweet comments — Minnesota seems a long time ago, when we met so many wonderful people like your family. Yes, Jerry would be very proud of what we are doing. He was an amazing guy, and I was his work in progress :)! Don’t be a stranger. Elaine

  15. Dear Jim and Cadi,
    Your son is one of my heroes — he is part of the new breed of humanitarians who are finding their way to JPAC, often operating behind the scenes. I enjoy giving these guys a little visibility — I think JPAC is better because of people like your son. Tell him he is making a difference. Much thanks, Elaine

  16. Dorothy Green says:

    Dear Cousin,
    I have no words. Thank you, for your strength, your passion, your beautiful writing. You have made me cry, smile, but most of all, begin to understand what you and the wonderful people you were with are doing. Much love to you and Ron.

  17. Hi Dot,
    Thank you for your huge vote of confidence. One of the most important reasons for doing this blog is to bring awareness to as many visitors as possible about the recovery system of our MIAs from past wars. In our case, we focus on the Vietnam War, leaning heavily on repatriating the remains of Jerry and Al, if possible. It makes me feel good when my wonderful long-lost cousin, who was a bridesmaid in Jerry’s and my wedding, checks in to tell me that you have learned something about the process and are proud of what MIA families and JPAC are doing on behalf of our loved ones.
    Love to you and Luma,

  18. Tom & Max,
    What a nice surprise to hear from you — all the way from Alaska! It seems like forever since you and Ron lived across the street from Craig and me, after our long journey across the U.S. to start a new life in California. Who would have thought that I’d marry the guy next door (or vice versa). Ron did a great job of raising Craig, and now he’s helping me bring home his dad’s remains, if possible. Love to you and Max. Elaine

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