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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Posts Tagged ‘LtCol Gene Mares’

MARINE F-4 PHANTOM FORAY: DEJA VU

Sunday, February 10, 2013 @ 08:02 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

  

 

STORY PREVIEW: SEE BELOW FOR LINK TO FULL STORY/PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS AND DOWNLOADABLE PDF

Whenever Marine aviators, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War, got together – whether they flew fixed wing or helicopters, the sky was the limit and pushing it was the norm, as in no guts, no glory.  As the wife of an F-4 Phantom pilot killed in combat, I witnessed the early stages of what became a life-long bond among a special subset of Marine pilots and Radar Intercept Officers (RIOs), who flew the F-4, a supersonic fighter jet with a proud 30-year Marine Corps history. 

Although their style might not be perceived as politically correct by today’s standards, these Marine aviators had an indomitable lust for life that made them and the F-4 legendary.  Undoubtedly, that can-do spirit rubbed off on some of us who lived — even for a short time — within this tight-knit, Marine Corps community.

               

 

 

 

                                                                         

In November, 2011, Maj Gen Mike “Lancer” Sullivan pushed out a thousand emails across the Internet, ultimately forming a database that best explains how the idea of organizing the first all-Marine F-4 Phantom Foray turned into reality a year later.  Several hundred Marine aviators and guests descended upon San Diego, November 1-4, 2012, and although now history, the Foray was a powerful reminder that this popular fighter jet may be gone, but the connection among the aviators who flew her is still very much alive.

This blog is about three Marines, who rekindled the camaraderie of an era when the Phantom ruled and its aviators lived up to expectations in the air and on the ground.  

The Marine Corps’ high regard for the F-4 had a lot to do with its long service and versatility — but to a group of young, cocky pilots, it was the hottest jet of the day, having already set 16 World altitude and speed records by 1962 when it arrived at the first two Marine squadrons.  Over time, the Marine Corps had 25, F-4 squadrons until production of the aircraft ended in 1992.   As a career Marine, Lancer  flew F-4s in five different squadrons, and the same applied to his long-time F-4 buddies, Col. Bob “Fox” Johnson, and Col. JP “Monk “ Monroe, who teamed up with him to help make the Foray happen.    

Middle of the action – Lancer & Fox

                                                                                               Monk & the Capellupos

Although unable to attend the first All-Marine F-4 Phantom Foray, I connected with Lancer, Fox and Monk, the three guys whose efforts brought back the era of the F-4 Phantom that so many aviators and aircraft support personnel in the Marine Corps still cherish. My thanks go to them for sharing the details of this successful, four-day event.  

Like most reunions, I know you had to be there to really appreciate the celebratory atmosphere, but interviewing these guys was a celebration in itself, as demonstrated by their enthusiasm for the Foray.  I want to thank them for remembering F-4 brothers, like Jerry & Al, whose lives were cut short in Vietnam many years ago, with a beautiful memorial service that drew over 300 Foray attendees prior to their departure. 

PLEASE CLICK ON  MARINE F-4 PHANTOM FORAY TO READ THE COMPLETE STORY.   

 

Lessons Learned: Traveling Solo in Vietnam and Beyond

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 @ 08:07 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Former Army officer and Vietnam Veteran Doug Reese is shown here in 2009 with Mr. Du, a Viet Cong during the war, who helped us find Jerry’s and Al’s crash site.  Although now living in the USA, Reese continues to be a reminder that contacts in Vietnam are important — especially for travelers like me, who often go solo. (Partially shown in this photo is retired Lt Col Gene Mares, USMC, whose efforts also helped us convince JPAC that we had found Jerry’s site).

Maneuvering the MIA world is not easy and sometimes elevates grief to a whole new level.  And certainly the quest to locate and repatriate Jerry’s remains in Vietnam has been extraordinarily challenging at times.  However, I am a strong believer in trying to balance sobriety with humor and have found that my endless travel glitches – particularly when I go solo — keep the yin and yang in check. 

Undoubtedly, my preparation for traveling solo in Vietnam began nearly two decades ago, as a freelance writer covering the port of Yantai in mainland China for a business publication.  Although China was developing rapidly, especially in the economic zones, the country was vastly different than it is today with no Internet access or mobile phones, bicycles everywhere and few English speakers to be found.  Furthermore, I knew nothing about maritime commerce, shrimp farms, refrigerated containers and the list goes on.   I was truly a fish out of water! 

Despite being lackluster, my article was published; however, had I submitted the real story, it would have been anything but boring.  A quick sample:  Asked to make a toast at a formal dinner, hosted by the Mayor of Yantai and about 12 of his male colleagues, I selected a Spanish toast that unbeknownst to me translated into “Kiss – Kiss” in Mandarin, instead of “cheers.”  When everyone began laughing, and it wasn’t supposed to be funny, I knew something was wrong.  Although two decades have passed since that toast and trip, I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t assume that everything translates the same from one language to another. 

Thanks to my friend, Doug Reese, an Army Vietnam veteran and long-time in-country travel expert who has made incredible contributions to Jerry’s case, I have avoided many of my past mistakes –but not all — while traveling in Vietnam. Although Doug recently moved back to the United States with his Vietnamese wife, Nhung, and their daughter, Samantha,  we stay in close contact.  A master at communication, Doug always manages to track me down through his Skype connection, and my recent trip to Vietnam was no exception. 

While in country, I usually devote all my time to Jerry’s case; however, during this trip, I reserved a few days for leisure travel and asked Doug if he would pull together a boat trip on Halong Bay, which he did.  At the last minute, I decided to cancel Halong and instead spend the time in Hong Kong, where Ron and I had lived for a short time about eight years ago.   Consequently, I began rescheduling my final stay in Vietnam, along with booking flights and accommodations for Hong Kong.  The latter was not too difficult, but I soon learned that winging it in Vietnam is not advisable when traveling solo.  Read more