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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.

DEMINING VIETNAM: US PACIFIC COMMAND REACHES OUT

Monday, May 6, 2013 @ 03:05 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

To a child in Vietnam, this innocuous-looking object could be a toy, instead of a deadly UXO, left over from the Vietnam War.   In July, US Marines will train the Vietnamese military in the latest demining techniques, through the US Pacific Command’s Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) Program, which is also being offered to other mine-affected countries in Asia Pacific.

REMNANTS OF WAR

Vietnam has a big problem, and it won’t go away soon; however, when a contingent of United States Marines land in country, July 2013, their stopover is expected to be a step in the right direction for a country eager to resolve safety issues in order to reach new heights in the global marketplace.  The Vietnamese government knows that cleaning up its environment is not an issue of going green, but rather going clean, as in demining the country — primarily in the rural areas — of its destructive explosive remnants of war (ERW) that kill and maim hundreds of its citizens every year, limit livelihoods and impede infrastructure progress.   Although the number of  UXO in Vietnam does not reach the levels of Laos and Cambodia, there is one statistic that places Vietnam in a class of its own.

According to an article in a back issue of the Journal of Mine Action, the province of Quang Tri in central Vietnam is one the most seriously affected regions in the world.  Author Zack Wall says that since the end of the Vietnam War, nearly 7,000 casualties have been reported in this province alone—exceeding casualty totals to date for entire countries such as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ethiopia and Kosovo, to name just a few. 

 HUMANITARIAN OUTREACH

Considered among the best of the best in their specialty, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, 1stExplosive Ordnance Disposal Company and others have added Vietnam to their list of humanitarian stops, as part of PACOMs Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA)program,* formed to assist countries in Asia Pacific. 

Not the first U.S. military involvement in Vietnam’s post-war demining efforts, but certainly the first for these Marines whose expertise is unquestionably rare, from a standpoint of skill and experience with combat- tested technology in the Middle East, where ordnance of every type has undoubtedly reached new levels of complexity – both on the ground and in the air, exploded and unexploded. 

The Marine Corps goal is to train the Vietnamese military on how to handle and dispose of UXO, using the latest demining equipment and technology, as both sides come together in a quest to rid Vietnam of its ERWs.

The issue of UXO  should not to be taken lightly by visitors to Vietnam  — even returning veterans, who want to visit former battlegrounds in remote areas.  While time has helped to heal war wounds for many on both sides, it can do nothing to soften potential damage from UXO.  I have read that 40% of the duds in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are hazardous with a 13% probability of detonation.  Cluster bombs had a significant failure rate, and there were several million dropped, especially in Laos, during that time.  The problem is definitely real, and when the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) conducts field operations in Vietnam and elsewhere, they always include an explosive specialist on their field teams. 

UXOs – SERIOUS STUFF

As the former wife of a Marine Corps jet pilot, shot down in Vietnam and still unaccounted-for, I can attest to the concerns that villagers in the rural sectors have for UXO.  When retired Lt Col Gene Mares hiked to my first husband’s crash site, deep within the Que Sons, he followed our Vietcong guide’s footsteps, never deviating from his lead, knowing that Mr. Du had made the trip many times and was very cautious .  In my case, I recall visiting a crash site outside of Saigon with VFW and VVA leadership, also following our guide’s lead, every step of the way, walking single file, before arriving at the site.  I commented on an area that looked to be off limits and was told that it was restricted because of  UXO – no one ventured in that direction.  

Helping Vietnam with its UXO problem is serious stuff and much needed.  I am very pleased that our Marines will conduct their first in-country, demining training as part of PACOMs Humanitarian Mine Action program.  I am certain that this effort will pay off in the end.

*NOTE:  PACOMs HMA Program is also being offered in Laos, Cambodia and several other countries in need of demining training.  In the case of Vietnam, winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people may also help efforts to find loved ones still unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  This program — and similar humanitarian efforts — mean a lot to families like mine.   Specific details relating to the HMA Program were gathered from military press releases.

2 Responses to “DEMINING VIETNAM: US PACIFIC COMMAND REACHES OUT”

  1. Maggie (Ogden) Ardery says:

    Thank you for all you do. I see you at the briefings/meetings and want to speak with you but don’t wish to interrupt conversation you are engaged in.
    I cannot express my love and respect for Hattie; your words written above are beautiful.
    Howard L. Ogden, USMC, is my brother and I feel very good about finding him in Vietnam soon,,. am I too hopeful?
    With kindest regards, Maggie

  2. Maggie, Hope is always a good thing, and I think Hattie would tell you that, too. The relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam is so much better nowadays, and anything is possible. I would like very much to meet you at the upcoming League meeting — please look for me. Regards, Elaine


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