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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 ‘Vietnamese Government’

MIA RECOVERIES: Searching for Over-Water Crashes in Vietnam

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 @ 08:06 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

This photo was taken in June 2009, when the USNS Bruce C. Heezen became the first oceanographic ship to assist JPAC in its search for over-water losses in Vietnam. That event eventually led to a second mission (discussed in this blog) that resulted in the discovery of 15 possible crash sites. The leadership team for the 2009 mission included (L-R) SrCol Dao Xuan Kinh, Ambassador Nguyen Van Dao, JPACs Ron Ward, Capt Robert Reish, LTC Todd Emoto, USA.

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) offered renewed hope to several families of MIAs lost in over-water crashes during the Vietnam War. For the second time since the war ended in the mid 1970s – the first being in 2009, JPAC and its Vietnamese counterpart embarked on a month-long investigation, May 20 to June 20, 2011, to gather information about possible aircraft wreckages off the coast of DaNang, Quang Nam, Thua Thien-Hue and Quang Tri in the South China Sea. According to crash records, there were 444 aircraft losses in the Vietnam War over water, with 247 occurring in the north and 197 in the south.

Finding aircraft that went down over water during the Vietnam War may well represent the ultimate challenge for JPAC in its humanitarian recovery efforts.

Once again, the Military Sealift Command (MSA) provided manpower, equipment, technology and transportation for the bilateral effort, using one of its six oceanographic ships, the USNS Bowditch, and a team of civilian survey experts who specialize in physical oceanography, hydrography, acoustics and geophysics. Using sonar, the Bowditch team completed 15 surveys in deep and shallow waters and found potential wreckages in most of them. However, it appears that there’s no way of determining if the anomalies picked up by the sonar were crashes or something else, unless the experts take the next step.

“The biggest conclusion we’ve come to this year is that we need to dive,” said Ron Ward, JPACs Casualty Resolution Specialist at Detachment 2, in Hanoi, during an interview with AFP – a global news agency that covers international events . Ron has 20 years of recovery experience in Vietnam and was aboard the USNS Bruce C. Heezen for the first underwater survey mission. He says that divers and/or remotely-operated submersibles will now be needed to confirm their recent findings.

Although Vietnam has been slow to loosen the reins in areas they once considered a threat to their national security, there seems to be a warming trend between our former enemy and the United States. Said Navy Rear Adm. Jonathan White, commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command: “The level of cooperation [Vietnam] is a great example of the strengthening relationship between our two nations.”

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A view of attendees at the closing dinner for the 2010 meeting of the National League of POW/MIA Families in Washington, D.C.

The National League of POW/ MIA Families with loved ones still unaccounted-for in Southeast Asia will gather in Washington, D.C., July 21-24, for their annual meeting with recovery, military and government officials. Although the League has been meeting annually for four decades, I attended my first meeting last year and was impressed with the level of discussions, as well as the knowledge and devotion of families who have been involved with Vietnam War efforts from the beginning.

My focus has been on Vietnam where Jerry was killed in 1969; basically, the huge number of MIAs still unaccounted-for throughout the world has necessitated that families become personally involved with a loved one’s case, whether lost in Vietnam, WWII or Korea. Thanks to the leadership efforts of DPMO, JPAC and the National League of POW/MIA Families, we all have incredible communication tools and opportunities available to us nowadays, making it easy to interface one-on-one at events like the annual League meeting in D.C.

What makes this year’s meeting particularly important is the realization that MIA recovery operations are focusing more on WWII locations to comply with the mandate in the 2010 Defense Authorization Act ; therefore, I anticipate that many of the attendees will want to know specifically what impact this is having on Vietnam War recoveries. I am personally interested in several topics that are expected to be discussed, and the following questions are a few that I hope will be will be addressed at some point during the three-day meeting:

What significant changes are anticipated for Vietnam War detachments, manpower and field operations?

How many VN War identifications are being made annually from current field operations? How many from the cache of stored remains at JPACs Central Identifications Laboratory (CIL)?

Is there any new technology, unique to Vietnam War identifications?

How many MIA cases from the VN War are now believed recoverable, according to investigations and other data?

What role will unilateral operations play in Vietnam?