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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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Archive for the ‘Brown University and Military’ Category

When Jerry and I began dating during his sophomore year at Brown University (‘63-‘64), Mike Hutter was a freshman and had pledged Delta Tau Delta, which was Jerry’s fraternity. Although I never forgot Mike, I hadn’t seen him or any of the other guys since Jerry’s college days. Most Delts and other friends had no idea where I’d gone, and Mike was one of them.

A few years ago, I decided to logon to the Vietnam Virtual Wall, which I had never done, because I knew it would be painful to see Jerry’s name among all the other soldiers and Marines killed in Vietnam (visiting the real wall in D.C. is still tough, and I always go alone). I finally arrived at the correct site, and there was Mike’s name with warm, sensitive messages left for Jerry, year after year. I was awestruck and read each one of them, feeling a little like an interloper but so grateful for his contributions. I tried to contact him, but each time I couldn’t work up the courage. Read more

Brown University's John Hay Library, built in 1908 with money from Andrew Carnegie, is now used to house the school's archives, of which will include Brown's Vietnam Oral Histories. I met with Dr. Elizabeth Taylor in the room pictured in this 1940s image, and it was an extremely moving experience.

Many of you are aware that Brown University and other Ivy League schools kicked ROTC programs off their campuses in the late 60s and early 70s. I use the word “kicked,” to give you a sense of the times we lived in back then. In fact, it was more politically correct to use “kicked” than “ended,” explaining the death of patriotism – as I saw it – for years to come. Ironically, the very people who had been scourged for serving in Vietnam would play key roles in bringing patriotism back to the American culture. And although ROTC programs still have not returned to most Ivy League campuses, Brown has decided to tell the story about the other side of the Vietnam War, as seen through oral histories of its graduates that served in Vietnam.

Thanks to two bright people with strong ties to Brown – David Taylor, a former NROTC scholarship recipient who graduated with Jerry from Brown University, Class of ’66, became a Marine and attended the same Basic School (TBS 1-67), flight school and went on to become a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. The other is Dr. Elizabeth Taylor, known by her friends as “Beth,” who is a professor of non-fiction writing at Brown University, where she received her master’s degree and doctorate. (I just ordered her newly published book, The Plain Language of Love and Loss: A Quaker Memoir, and look forward to reading it). Among Beth’s writings are scholarly works dealing with the effect that the Vietnam War had on different people’s lives. And since much of her work these days focuses on writing projects for Brown’s archives, Beth was interested when David suggested that she consider a Brown Vietnam Oral History project. Read more