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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 MIA’ Category

DPAA’s GLOBAL HUMANITARIAN EFFORT — YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 @ 06:02 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

LETTING GO IS HARD TO DO  –  IF NOT, IMPOSSIBLE

DPAAs quarterly family meetings focus on  the issues surrounding missing loved ones, primarily from  WWII; Korean War; Cold War; and Vietnam War.  Held on January 25, 2020, in Henderson, Nevada, at the beautiful Hilton, the event attracted several  family members who live in the Western Region of the United States. 

 

KEEPING THE EFFORT ALIVE

Readers of this post might be surprised to learn that a number of family members who attend these quarterly meetings are often first-timers, namely because immediate families may be deceased or have passed the “torch” along to relatives, who want to ensure that a grandfather, uncle or another relative, who served our country , especially in WWII or the Korean War, will  “Not Be Forgotten.”  The warmth of these quarterly meetings cannot be underestimated, as apparent during the Remembrance Ceremony, in which families are offered an opportunity to say a few words about a missing loved one to others in the room. While not all choose to do so, those that do, are what makes this observance a special addition to each DPAA quarterly meeting, and can be particularly inspiring when a young man adds a few words, as seen in the image below. 

NOTE:   Although Vietnam War families also have surrogates that attend these and other meetings on their behalf, there are fewer newcomers from the Vietnam War generation at this point, in part, due to being the more recent era and, frankly, because of the negative treatment received by our heroic military from activists at home.  The Vietnam War families went to Washington, D.C. and came home with a promise of “You Are Not Forgotten,” to families with loved ones missing.  In essence that promise ultimately evolved into what we now know as the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).  

Todd Livick, Director DPAA Outreach & Communications
invited an articulate young man to share his reason
for attending the meeting. In a few words, he
 touched the hearts of many, explaining that
he came with his mom & sister to learn more about
his grandfather, who was killed in the Korean War.

 MIND-BOGGLING JOB

DPAA Director Kelly Mc Keague, a former Air Force Major General, was hand-picked in 2015, to assume responsibilty of a global  effort, with a mission that is believed to be the largest and only of its type and/or size.  McKeague oversees an organization with approximately a staff of 600, largely based in Washington, D.C., and Hickam Air Force base in Honolulu, Hawaii — the launching departure for field operations to many — if not most — around the world.  Hickam is also home to DPAAs state-of-the-art laboratory that interfaces on some level with all facets of the recovery process.   I have visited the lab, and it is truly an amazing place and another “one of a kind” required to enable DPAA do a job that is still  mind-boggling to me. I encourage families, veterans and others to visit the lab at Hickam, but you must make reservations ahead of time. Although Hickam is home to the “The Lab,” DPAA also has a satellite lab at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.  They also work closely with the Armed Forces DNA Identification  Laboratory (AFDIL), located at Dover Air Force Base, Maryland. 

SEEING IS BELIEVING

As the wife of a missing Vietnam War Marine, for whom this blog is dedicated, I can say with total honesty that I don’t believe there is another humanitarian effort that compares to DPAAs mandate to bring home the remains of our missing loved ones to the extent possible.  Field operations often involve a lot of prep work, such as clearing an area in Vietnam or Laos of UXOs (unexploded ordnance) before teams can begin to dig, hike and sift through buckets of dirt, unearthed from a crash site that has been fallow for nearly 50 years . Yet teams,composed of anthropologists; active duty military; Vietnamese; and others understand the gravity of their job and how important it is to families who pray for their loved one’s return.  Toiling in unbelievable heat, the team hopes to find remains,  a bone, a tooth or  life support gear that might belong to the pilot and/or crew who were shot down long ago.  I’ve been very fortunate to observe many interesting sights, as a professional writer over the years, but nothing compares to visiting Jerry’s crash site, thanks to an invitation, indirectly through a Vietnamese official, which is why I try to tell it like it is, and hopefully give readers an honest opinion, as witnessed through my  eyes.

This image was taken during my visit to Jerry’s crash site , June, 2012.

 

Please click on DPAA to go to their public website. 

Please click on FamWeb to go to DPAA’s Family website.

YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED

COMING SOON

— My recent review of Jerry’s case, received from DPAA officials during the Henderson meeting.

— A Woman’s determination not to give up  the search for her brother

— A professional female athlete accomplishes what seems like the impossible, to honor her dad who was killed in Laos in 1972 — she was 3 yrs. old at the time.  An amazing story!

 

TURNING POINT IN JERRY’S CASE?

Friday, August 25, 2017 @ 08:08 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

 

I captured this image during a PPT presentation at the 2016 Family League meeting, demonstrating the effort required to locate the remains of MIAs from downed aircraft in the mountainous terrain of Southeast Asia.  Nowadays many searches involve our unaccounted-for service members killed in high-speed crashes, such as  the F-4 Phantom piloted by my first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer, USMC.  This image is not related to Jerry’s case, nor do I know when, where or whose case was involved.  Privacy rights are always paramount out of respect for the families.

I rarely forget August 29th, as the day that Jerry was killed-in-action during the Vietnam War, when his F-4 Phantom was shot down in 1969, over the Que Son Mountains of South Vietnam. This year the 29th has special significance.

SURVEYING THE CRASH SITE
Not only will it be the 48th Anniversary of Jerry’s death, but weather permitting, teams from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and the Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) are camping out on the mountainside of Jerry’s crash site in Quang Nam Province, conducting an 8-day survey, from Aug 25 – Sept 2,2017.

The importance of this survey cannot be minimized, not only for its danger, but its outcome. Due to the size of the crash site, DPAA and predecessors have conducted several excavation phases, as is typical of many jet crashes in mountainous areas of Southeast Asia. This survey will cover the last area of the site – on the side of the mountain with the most dangerous terrain, requiring certified mountaineers and other specialists.

PRAYING FOR A MIRACLE
If the survey produces compelling evidence, such as human remains – even the slightest amount — then DPAA’s anthropologists could recommend another excavation in the future; however, if nothing of significance is found, then I think Jerry’s case will be closed. As most can imagine, I am praying for a positive outcome – maybe a miracle, but I also realize that the odds are not in my favor.

LOW-HANGING FRUIT PICKED
While excavations are considered the most intense and perhaps desirable part of the process in the search for remains, I think that the type of survey being conducted at Jerry’s site is unique and truly demonstrates what it takes to recover remains from jets like the F-4. The low-hanging fruit was picked years ago, and in recent years the concentration has been on the aircraft downed in mountainous areas of Southeast Asia. As difficult as it is to believe, DPAA, VNOSMP and predecessor groups have had success in finding remains in the crevices and wash basins of mountainous sites over the years. It is simply mindboggling.

SPECIAL TEAMS, SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
Here is a brief list of what it takes to get the survey accomplished:
The investigation team is based on the mountain during the survey.
The VNOSMP conducted all the preparations for the base camp and flew supplies in an Mi-17 to the site in advance of the US team’s arrival.
Leading the survey will be two anthropologists and two mountaineers, as well as the rest of the team, all of whom have specialties.

I want to thank our DPAA specialists in Detachment 2, in Hanoi, for their continued service to families like mine, along with the VNOSMP for being a true partner in helping to recover our MIAs. I’ve had the pleasure of watching this successful partnership for nearly a decade

Please stay connected, and I will post an update when available. Thanks very much for your support.