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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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Posts Tagged ‘CAMP PENDLETON’

DEMINING VIETNAM: US PACIFIC COMMAND REACHES OUT

Monday, May 6, 2013 @ 03:05 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

To a child in Vietnam, this innocuous-looking object could be a toy, instead of a deadly UXO, left over from the Vietnam War.   In July, US Marines will train the Vietnamese military in the latest demining techniques, through the US Pacific Command’s Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) Program, which is also being offered to other mine-affected countries in Asia Pacific.

REMNANTS OF WAR

Vietnam has a big problem, and it won’t go away soon; however, when a contingent of United States Marines land in country, July 2013, their stopover is expected to be a step in the right direction for a country eager to resolve safety issues in order to reach new heights in the global marketplace.  The Vietnamese government knows that cleaning up its environment is not an issue of going green, but rather going clean, as in demining the country — primarily in the rural areas — of its destructive explosive remnants of war (ERW) that kill and maim hundreds of its citizens every year, limit livelihoods and impede infrastructure progress.   Although the number of  UXO in Vietnam does not reach the levels of Laos and Cambodia, there is one statistic that places Vietnam in a class of its own.

According to an article in a back issue of the Journal of Mine Action, the province of Quang Tri in central Vietnam is one the most seriously affected regions in the world.  Author Zack Wall says that since the end of the Vietnam War, nearly 7,000 casualties have been reported in this province alone—exceeding casualty totals to date for entire countries such as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ethiopia and Kosovo, to name just a few. 

 HUMANITARIAN OUTREACH

Considered among the best of the best in their specialty, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, 1stExplosive Ordnance Disposal Company and others have added Vietnam to their list of humanitarian stops, as part of PACOMs Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA)program,* formed to assist countries in Asia Pacific. 

Not the first U.S. military involvement in Vietnam’s post-war demining efforts, but certainly the first for these Marines whose expertise is unquestionably rare, from a standpoint of skill and experience with combat- tested technology in the Middle East, where ordnance of every type has undoubtedly reached new levels of complexity – both on the ground and in the air, exploded and unexploded. 

The Marine Corps goal is to train the Vietnamese military on how to handle and dispose of UXO, using the latest demining equipment and technology, as both sides come together in a quest to rid Vietnam of its ERWs.

The issue of UXO  should not to be taken lightly by visitors to Vietnam  — even returning veterans, who want to visit former battlegrounds in remote areas.  While time has helped to heal war wounds for many on both sides, it can do nothing to soften potential damage from UXO.  I have read that 40% of the duds in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are hazardous with a 13% probability of detonation.  Cluster bombs had a significant failure rate, and there were several million dropped, especially in Laos, during that time.  The problem is definitely real, and when the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) conducts field operations in Vietnam and elsewhere, they always include an explosive specialist on their field teams. 

UXOs – SERIOUS STUFF

As the former wife of a Marine Corps jet pilot, shot down in Vietnam and still unaccounted-for, I can attest to the concerns that villagers in the rural sectors have for UXO.  When retired Lt Col Gene Mares hiked to my first husband’s crash site, deep within the Que Sons, he followed our Vietcong guide’s footsteps, never deviating from his lead, knowing that Mr. Du had made the trip many times and was very cautious .  In my case, I recall visiting a crash site outside of Saigon with VFW and VVA leadership, also following our guide’s lead, every step of the way, walking single file, before arriving at the site.  I commented on an area that looked to be off limits and was told that it was restricted because of  UXO – no one ventured in that direction.  

Helping Vietnam with its UXO problem is serious stuff and much needed.  I am very pleased that our Marines will conduct their first in-country, demining training as part of PACOMs Humanitarian Mine Action program.  I am certain that this effort will pay off in the end.

*NOTE:  PACOMs HMA Program is also being offered in Laos, Cambodia and several other countries in need of demining training.  In the case of Vietnam, winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people may also help efforts to find loved ones still unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  This program — and similar humanitarian efforts — mean a lot to families like mine.   Specific details relating to the HMA Program were gathered from military press releases.

MARINE F-4 PHANTOM FORAY: 1-4 NOVEMBER 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012 @ 09:10 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

 

 

 

 

 

POST-FORAY STORY:  www.bringingjerryhome.com/2013/02/marine-f4-phantom-foray-dj-vu/

The Marine F-4 Phantom Foray is coming to San Diego, CA, 1-4 November 2012, and the number of attendees is building as word gets out among veterans who flew this tremendously beloved supersonic jet.  The Marines of VMFA-314 (Black Knights) received the Corps’ first F-4Bs in June 1962, at MCAS El Toro, which was adjacent to Mission Viejo and sadly now closed.

But the event will be held at the Town & Country Hotel, conveniently located off Interstate 8 in Mission Valley, a short distance from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), about 15-20 minutes from MCAS Miramar  in the northern portion of the city and 30-40 minutes from Camp Pendleton in North County.  The Marines rule in this part of the country, so East and West Coast Marine F-4 pilots and crew will be right at home in San Diego.

Reunions are infamous for reviving – often in a spectacular way — events of historical or meaningful significance, even though the redundancy may last just a few days.  For hundreds of Marine jet pilots, the upcoming F-4 Foray is expected to place a bunch of jet jocks back in the seat – metaphorically speaking –of the aircraft that was as tough to earn the right to fly as it was to perform life or death missions in the Vietnam War and elsewhere.   If it is true that the last fighter pilot has already been born, then the Marines attending this reunion should feel proud that as former F-4  pilots and RIOs, they  are part of another very special brotherhood.

REUNION HIGHLIGHTS

The F-4 Foray will draw hundreds of former Marine pilots, RIOs, crew chiefs, mechanics, reps, families and special guests, most of whom were involved with F-4s over the years.  There will be Ready Rooms spread throughout the hotel for maximum hospitality and several outside tours to Marine-related locations.  (Visit www.afr-reg.com/F4Foray for more information).  The highlight of the three-day event is expected to be the Saturday night banquet dinner in the hotel when Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Amos speaks to his Marines, as in “once a Marine, always a Marine.”  The Commandant flew F-4s early-on in his career and is the first pilot in history to serve in his current position as Commandant.  Well liked by all who know him and respected by those who only know of him – yours truly included, the Saturday evening dinner is certain to be a big deal.

Also speaking at the banquet will be special guest John Capellupo, past President of McDonnell Aircraft, builder of 5,057 F-4 Phantom IIs, for the Navy, Air Force and Marines. Production of F-4s ended in the United States in 1979, moving to Japan’s Mitsubishi, which built 138 Phantoms with the last one off the assembly line in 1981.  Although no longer in production, the Phantom is still used in several countries worldwide, and nowadays the U.S. military uses it as a target drone.  Also, according to organizers of the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War, the Marine Corps had more F4 Phantom squadrons – 25 to be exact – in service throughout the world during the Vietnam War than any other single type aircraft squadron before or since Vietnam – a stunning number, since Marine Corps aviation just marked its 100th Anniversary this year.   Another interesting hallmark is that the F4 was the only demonstration aircraft used concurrently by both the Navy/Marine Blue Angels (1969-74) and the Air Force Thunderbirds.

LIFE AS AN F-4 PHANTOM WIFE — BRIEFLY

The F-4 will always have a special place in my heart, since my first husband, Capt Jerry Zimmer, worked harder than words can explain to get selected to fly F-4s and was killed flying one in Vietnam.  So competitive was the Marine Corps flight school program that the number of slots for jets – never mind F-4s – in each graduating class during Jerry’s era (’67-’68) was sometimes non-existent or limited to one or two slots — timing truly was a big deal.   A number of Marines transitioning from helicopters, infantry or another MOS, went through an Air Force exchange program and some had an opportunity to get into F-4s through that channel — it is my understanding that the Air Force had more F-4s than the Navy or the Marine Corps.  My friend, retired Marine Col Jack Gagen, went through the Marine flight program but served his first Vietnam tour with the Air Force in F-4s and his second  with the Marines in VMFA-542, later going on to command F-4 squadrons at MCAS El Toro and MCAS Yuma, AZ. Read more