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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 ‘WWII’

MIA RECOVERIES IN VIETNAM: DNA TO THE RESCUE

Friday, April 22, 2011 @ 08:04 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Jerry's son, Craig, kneels before his father's memorial stone, during the 40th Memorial Service in Arlington Nat'l Cemetery, 8/20/2009
Jerry’s and my son, Craig, was two and a half years old when his father was killed in Vietnam. He hopes that his dad’s remains still can be found when JPAC continues excavating Jerry’s and Al’s site. If found, Craig knows that DNA will likely be a key factor in helping to identfiy the remains. (This photo was taken at Jerry’s 40th Memorial Service in Arlington Nat’l Cemetery, at the site of his father’s Memorial Stone.)

Some of the most difficult battles can ultimately produce the sweetest victories. In the case of Vietnam, it took nearly two decades after our departure in 1973, to figure out how America and Vietnam could form a partnership, beneficial to both sides. We wanted our POW/MIA issues to be resolved, since we had left behind 2,646 unaccounted-for Marines, soldiers and personnel in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and China — 90% were located in Vietnam. The Vietnamese wanted money in the form of reparations and a trade agreement, etc., with the United States. Neither side got everything it wanted, but both eventually got enough for a quasi win-win situation.

Unlike post-WWII recovery efforts (after winning), which were launched immediately following the war and resulted in the identification of more than 270,000 MIAs, the lapses in Vietnam’s post-war recovery program (after losing) required that the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and its predecessors use every tool available in the field and in the laboratory to produce even a modest number of identifications.

The new enemy in Vietnam had no guns, but nonetheless its acidic soil, monsoon rains and scavenger culture were rapidly destroying our MIAs remains. The situation was unlike anything our government had encountered in past wars and some of those conditions may have hurt efforts in the early 1990s to locate Jerry’s and Al’s crash site. Read more