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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.

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Archive for the ‘Elaine Zimmer Davis’ Vietnam Travels’ Category

Vietnam War: Unilateral Recoveries May Save Our MIAs

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 @ 10:04 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

vietnam-excavation-trip-8-23-10-004 Elaine visited the Base Camp during Jerry’s and Al’s excavation in August 2010 and met some members of the Vietnamese team who work side-by-side with JPAC conducting field operations in search of our MIAs in Vietnam. The Vietnamese selected to do this work have received extensive training and have been conducting unilateral operations in restricted locations for some time. This image was taken after both teams had been excavating Jerry’s and Al’s site throughout the day in 100 degree heat. The Vietnamese took a moment to propose a toast for the camera.

I knew change was coming in our Vietnam War recovery efforts when the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act included a mandate upping the number of MIA identifications from an average of 98 per year to 200 by 2015. If you understand the nature of recoveries/identifications, then you know that JPACs Central Identification Laboratory will be hard-pressed to meet that magic number, with or without Vietnam in the picture. Unfortunately, Vietnam recoveries have never delivered high numbers, so JPAC needs to go where it can bring home more MIAs to satisfy the new mandate. This means that efforts are being diverted to WWII locations.

And although I have been adamantly opposed to the mandate, I have adjusted to its reality and begun to look at the number’s game as an opportunity to move in a positive direction.

Also, at the beginning of our quest to find Jerry’s crash site and remains, I was not in favor of unilateral operations by the Vietnamese and expressed my feelings in past blogs. There was something so pure about having our active duty military, many of whom have served in the Middle East, working in the field on behalf of our loved ones. But that was naïve of me – I am 20 years too late (not 40 years, as some would like to think, since our Vietnam War recoveries waivered until the mid 1990s, in smoke-filled rooms with stalled negotiations).

It is time for the families of MIAs left behind from the Vietnam War to negotiate with our trusted decision-makers on the issue of revamping our recovery model in Southeast Asia. Maybe something akin to “let’s make a deal!” Read more

ARRIVAL AT CAMP SAILFISH

Sunday, August 22, 2010 @ 01:08 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

L-R: Sean Tallman, anthropologist; Elaine Zimmer Davis; Capt Joe Hamer, USMC, team leader; LtC Todd Emoto, USA, JPAC Commander, Det2, Hanoi

Flashback — Vietnam War: Retired Maj Gen Wayne Rollings, a Marine 2nd Lt. in 1969, hung out the door of a USMC CH-46 over the Que Son Mountain jungle on Aug 29th, with his “Sailfish” Recon team, waiting for the F4s to roll in and clear a landing zone so that he and his men could be inserted into “Indian Country”  by helicopter. The F4s from VMFA 542 in Danang arrived first, with Jerry serving as the flight leader and Maj Jack Gagen as his wingman – Jack had just arrived in country for his second tour and was getting reoriented to the area. Jerry was completing  his first bombing run, when his aircraft was hit and drove into the area’s mountainous terrain. Neither he nor his RIO, 1st Lt. Al Graf, were ever seen again.

41 Years Later — Peacetime Vietnam: It’s Aug 20, 2010 – just 9 days before the anniversary of Jerry’s and Al’s death. I’ve just arrived at JPACs base camp, located below the guys’ crash site in the village of Son Vien. This is where the American team and its Vietnamese counterpart, both of whom are working on the excavation, will be living until the first week of September. I have dreamt of this moment for a long time but had no idea what it would feel like, or if I’d be able to keep it together long enough to thank everyone for their efforts. But the people who do this work, whether military or civilian, are extraordinary —they made it easy for me. Read more