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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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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