Mapping Mission Produces Two Medal of Honor Recipients

Capt. Jay Zeamer Jr. volunteers as pilot of a bomber and 2nd Lt. Joseph R. Sarnoski volunteers as a bombardier on a B-17 Flying Fortress crew to photograph the formidable defended area of Buka, Solomon Islands. Although 20 enemy fighters were taking off from the airfield, Zeamer proceeds with his mapping run. At the nose guns, Sarnoski fights off the first attackers, allowing the pilot to finish the plotted course.

A frontal attack extensively damages the airplane and seriously injures five of the crew, including Zeamer, who is injured in both arms and legs. However, he maneuvers the damaged airplane so skillfully that his gunners fight off the enemy for 40 minutes, destroying five planes. Sarnoski shoots down two enemy airplanes, despite his own injuries. A 20 mm shell bursts in the nose, knocking him into the catwalk under the cockpit. He crawls back to his post and continues firing until he collapses on his guns and dies.

Zeamer, in wavering consciousness, turns over the controls and directs the flight to a base 580 miles away. Zeamer and Sarnoski are both awarded Medals of Honor for their actions.