PITTSTON TWP. — The Vietnam vet from Bear Creek Township who traveled back to the Southeast Asian country two weeks ago to locate the remains of two fellow Marines found the location at Khe Sanh where he believed they were, his wife and daughters said Thursday.
Edward Zimmerman, who was helping a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC, search team, was due to land at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport at 5:30 Thursday evening, as his family waited with signs, balloons and American flags. But he faced a delay with a connecting flight in Chicago.
His wife, Cathy, and daughters Lori Kosierowski and Leah O’Boyle had been in touch with Zimmerman by iPhone while he was in Vietnam and learned he located the site based on his memories of the battle.
“They found the spot,” Cathy Zimmerman said. “There was nothing there to see.”
Nearly 50 years since the 77-day siege, one of the longest and bloodiest of the Vietnam War — and where Zimmerman earned a Bronze Star for saving a fellow Marine and a Purple Heart for a wound he suffered — the remains would be in the ground. But Mrs. Zimmerman said the JPAC team would have to secure funding to excavate for the remains, and that likely would not happen until next year.
She said the JPAC team is conducting other searches while over there, but they did this search first because her husband is considered an eyewitness.
Kosierowski, of Avoca, said her father brought the search team within two feet of the site.
“He even mentioned a stream that was in the area and they told him that there was no stream on their maps,” she said in an email earlier this week. “But dad said to them that when they came around to that spot (during or before it got bad during the battle – don’t really know) that they had been out of water and were glad to have that stream. So, after dad told them that they went to where he told them where the stream to be, some guys with him went and looked for it and found it. It totally validated everything dad said. He buried the marker and can now go forward with the mission.”
As she and O’Boyle, of Duryea, waited at the airport with their mother and other family and friends, they recounted how proud they were of their father and relieved that he was coming home.
Zimmerman, 65, flew to Oahu, Hawaii, three days after Memorial Day, to meet up with the JPAC team — which searches for, recovers and identifies the remains of missing Americans from past wars for the U.S. Department of Defense — to accompany them to Vietnam.
He was looking for the location of the remains of Pfc. Anthony John Pepper of Richmond, Virginia, and Cpl. James Mitchell Trimble of Eureka, California. Both of the missing were from the 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, 3rd Marine Division — the same as Zimmerman — but they were with G, or Golf, Company. Zimmerman was with F, or Fox, Company.
O’Boyle said her father told her he learned Pepper was a radioman and Trimble had the unit’s map, and the North Vietnamese killed them, hid their bodies and took the radio and map.
Zimmerman had always assumed the recovery teams that swept the area afterward had recovered the bodies of all of the Marines who died in the siege. But in 2007, while Zimmerman was looking at a Khe Sanh veterans website, he saw a photo of a memorial for Pepper.
So he made some contacts, and JPAC representatives contacted and visited him. After verifying the locations of where Zimmerman said the units were at the time, he was approved for the trip.
Cathy Zimmerman said her husband plans to return to Vietnam next year when JPAC excavates for the remains.