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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 ‘Vietnam Heroes’ Category


Friday, April 8, 2011 @ 11:04 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

When Ron and I visited the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii last year, we had a brief tour of the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) where remains are stored, prior to undergoing forensic examination for identification purposes. We didn’t go inside the actual room where remains lay on a couple of tables; however, we had a clear view through a wall of glass, from where we stood in the corridor. On the opposite side of the corridor was another glassed-in room, but this one looked like a “clean room” with high tech equipment.

Johnie Webb, Deputy to the Commander, explained that it was the lab’s autopsy room. He paused for a moment before telling me that 10 years earlier a horrific helicopter crash in Vietnam took the lives of seven Americans from the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA –the predecessor to JPAC), along with nine Vietnamese, who were flying to a recovery site when the accident occurred. “Our team went to the crash site and personally brought our people back to this autopsy room,” said Johnie. “We wanted to take care of our own.”

On April 7, 2011, JPAC marked the 10th Anniversary of their loss with a remembrance ceremony at Quang Binh Province, to honor the sacrifice of these 16 people who perished as a result of the 2001 helicopter crash. They died as heroes, while working to keep a sacred U.S. promise: to recover Americans still unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.

Flying aboard a Russian-made Mi-17, the team is believed to have been caught in deteriorating weather conditions with poor visibility before going down in high terrain. That crash was the first and only fatal accident involved in the recovery of American remains in more than 25 years.

“All of these men, our own and the Vietnamese, risked their lives and it is with great humility that we honor their sacrifice,” said Maj. Gen Stephen Tom, Commander of JPAC.

My heart goes out to every family who lost a loved one in the accident and to the members of JPAC who still mourn the loss of their good buddies. I know they were extraordinary people, doing a job in which sacrifice doesn’t even begin to explain the nature of the business, never mind losing one’s life in the process. Your loved ones will always be heroes to me and to anyone else who understands the hardships endured by those who help recover our MIAs.  I wish you peace.

Names of Americans who died in the accident are U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rennie M. Cory Jr., U.S. Army Lt. Col. George D. Martin III, U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles E. Lewis, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Steven Moser, U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Pedro J. Gonzales, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tommy J. Murphy, U. S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert M. Flynn.  Also honored were members of the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Personnel (VNOSMP) SR COL Tran Van Bien,  VNOSMP Mr. Nguyen Thanh Ha, Northern Service Flight Company (NSFC)  LTC Nguyễn  Văn Hà, NSFC LTC Nguyễn Thanh Sơn, NSFC MAJ Vũ Phạm Thế  Kiên, NSFC MAJ Nguyễn Hữu Nhậm,  NSFC LT Giáp Thanh Ngân, NSFC LT Đặng  Ngọc, and NSFC LT Phạm Duy Dũng.

I originally wrote this blog last year as a remembrance to the heroes listed above who gave their lives trying to recover our loved ones’ remains in Vietnam.  They will never be forgotten.



Christmas 1967, Khe Sanh, celebrated Ugly Angels style! Capt Ben Cascio, standing, with fellow Ugly Angels in the foreground.

An upside to searching for the remains of my first husband, Capt Jerry Zimmer, USMC, an F4 Phantom pilot shot down in the Que Son Mountains of Vietnam and MIA since August 29, 1969, is my renewed respect for Marines whose countless acts of bravery during the Vietnam War saved the lives of many fellow Marines. One of those heroic acts was recorded on April 30, 1968–the first day of the hard-fought, four-day Battle of Dai Do.

NOTE: I first wrote a story about Ben and the Ugly Angels over a decade ago, and much of what you will read in this blog has been gathered over time—not just from Ben, but also from other Marines.  (For a downloadable PDF, highlight the following) :   The One-Eyed Ugly Angel – A True Marine Corps Legend

Stationed aboard the Iwo Jima—a Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) ship, floating about five miles off shore, from the mouth of the Cua Viet River in South Vietnam, Capt Ben Cascio and his crew of Ugly Angels (HMH-362) were on medevac stand-by when the call came from a unit with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines (2/4), requesting a medevac for five seriously wounded Marines. Within minutes, Ben and his wingman, 1st Lt Robbie Robertson, were at the controls of their H-34 helicopters, en route to Dai Do, a stone’s throw from Dong Ha and approximately eight miles south of the DMZ. Flying in the dead of night with 850 missions to his credit, Ben was unaware that the mission they were about to undertake would become a true Marine Corps legend.

As I prepare to write this blog, Ben has one request: “Please don’t call me a hero — this mission was a team effort.” But even with the passage of time, many of his Marine Corps brethren still credit Ben with an enormous heroic feat that earned him the name, “The One-Eyed Ugly Angel” — a moniker that Ben wears with pride. I think you’ll agree that his story makes us all proud, no matter what we call him. Read more