In 1943, quite a few U.S. airmen went on a suicide mission. Two men, who had been part of Keen Beavers, on the mission ended up awarded a Medal of Honor – the only time in WWII that two adult males been given the exact award for the exact same engagement. Curiously, their careers did not start out nicely.

Biography of Lt Col Jay Zeamer Jr.

Jay Zeamer, Jr. got his wings in 1941 at Langley Subject. All his classmates became pilots and obtained their very own planes and crews, but not Zeamer. Although he could fly and experienced a passion for it, he just didn’t have what it took to be a pilot.

Even now, he could fly, so when The us entered the war, they made him a co-pilot. In March 1942, they despatched him to Australia wherever he yet again tried out to develop into a pilot but all over again unsuccessful. They despatched him to the Solomon Islands – the same issue. Zeamer was to shell out WWII as a co-pilot, navigator, gunner, and nearly anything else just not a pilot.

Biography of 2nd Lt Joseph Raymond Sarnoski

Joseph Raymond Sarnoski met Zeamer at Langley. Sarnoski got his wings, but they designed him a bombing instructor, anything he wasn’t satisfied about. In 1942, they sent him to Australia exactly where he turned a Technological Sergeant, but he wasn’t pleased about that, possibly.

He preferred to see overcome, so they permit him fly a several missions, promoted him to Master Sergeant then sent him to the Solomon Islands to train other folks. Despondent, he turned to the a person human being who could not fly a aircraft. 

As to what occurred upcoming, you must understand what was going on on the islands.

Eager Beavers Is The Most Really-Decorated Aircrew in U.S. History

After bombing Pearl Harbor, Japan occupied territories in the South Pacific, including the Philippines which experienced been American house. The island of Rabaul was, for that reason, Japan’s critical to the location.

America’s precedence, nevertheless, was on Europe. Because it couldn’t disregard Japan, the primary program was to incorporate them right until Hitler and Mussolini were being out of the way.

Standard Douglas MacArthur fired the air chief in early 1942 and changed him with Basic George Kenney’s Fifth Air Force.

The Fifth commenced contacting by themselves “Ken’s Men” and began receiving awards, which includes numerous Medal of Honors. Even Sarnoski gained a Silver Star for earlier engagements. And Zeamer? The Intelligence Part in Port Moresby.

The Japanese at Rabaul were stepping up their things to do to retake the rest of the Solomons and Papua New Guinea, but US reconnaissance flights were being unachievable simply because the island’s volcano saved spewing smoke. Zeamer volunteered for the occupation, flew under the smoke, and acquired his pics when the crew fought off the enemy.

He continue to was not an official pilot, but he experienced flown so perfectly they stopped caring. On January 16, 1943, he sank an 8000-ton ship and was awarded a Silver Star. That ought to have attained him a airplane and crew, but they had none to give him.

Their eye fell on old 666 a B-17E 41-2666 which was assigned to the United States’ 43rd Bomb Team. By 1943, Previous 666, tail range 41-2666, had suffered major battle harm and had obtained a name as a cursed bomber, normally coming back again from missions with significant damage.

Grounded at Port Moresby Airport, it was parked at the close of the runway in which other aircrews could cannibalize it for required parts. A armed service photographer told Zeamer, “I know exactly where there is a bomber, but no a single will fly it anymore simply because each and every time it goes out it receives shot to hell!”

Nonetheless, it flew and was additional intensely armed than other Traveling Fortresses mainly because they’d rebuilt it virtually from scratch. They improved the amount of equipment guns from 13 to 19, changed the waistline gunners’ regular single guns with twin guns, changed all .30 cal equipment guns with the more substantial and much more strong .50 cal, and extra a mounted-placement gun that could be fired from the pilot’s station. Zeamer’s crew set guns in which they did not even want them and still left spare device guns on the aircraft’s catwalk if a gun jammed at a essential minute, they could dump it and immediately swap it. They also mounted a gun at the rear of the ball turret around the waistline.

The group volunteered for missions no a person preferred and were being identified as the Eager Beaver – generally having the most perilous work opportunities but constantly making it again alive. All gained Silver Stars when Sarnoski acquired an Air Medal and grew to become a 2nd Lieutenant.

By March, skirmishes against the Japanese had been rising, culminating in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. The Japanese defeat gave MacArthur the program to consider the Philippines again. Termed Operation Cartwheel, it intended attacking their bases at Bougainville, Buka, and Rabaul. If these fell, the Individuals could just take the other islands till they achieved the Philippines.

But a raid against such closely defended positions would be suicide until Eager Beavers realized what they were up towards. No just one volunteered, so MacArthur settled on a reconnaissance flight above Bougainville. The Eager Beavers stepped forward. Two caught malaria and Sarnoski was ordered back again to the US to instruct, but he could not allow the relaxation go devoid of him.

Just in advance of their 4 am takeoff on June 15th, even so, Zeamer was requested to make an supplemental reconnaissance flight about Buka. He was determined to overlook it. Bougainville was hazardous sufficient, and he needed all the Keen Beavers again alive.

Keen Beavers arrived at Bougainville much too early, even so, nonetheless too dim for photograph-taking, so Zeamer flew to Buka. It was even worse than they thought. There were being 400 new enemy fighters, and 17 were revving up to fulfill them. The Old 666 zoomed to 25,000 feet and flew toward Bougainville.

Japanese Main Flight Petty Officer Yoshio Uki of the 241st Kokutai was among the the the latest arrivals, so he could not hold out to take out the People with his A6M Zero. As they took to the skies, even so, the Fortress took neither evasive maneuvers nor sped up. It was as if the Us residents did not see them.

They did, but to get appropriate photos, they experienced to fly steadily for 20 minutes. To invest in time, Sergeant “Pudgy” Pugh shot at the Japanese from the tail, when Technological Sergeant Forrest Dillman shot from the waist.

Sarnoski manned the guns at the nose, waiting around for them to attack from the front. He didn’t have to wait around extended. Uki and 5 other people had flown ahead and were being turning again to strike the Fortress from its most vulnerable position – the entrance.

It took them about 15 minutes to total their maneuver. By 8 am, the two sides were being on a collision study course at above 500 mph above Empress Augusta Bay. Zeamer necessary only a single additional minute just before he could crack off, but it was also late.

The Japanese opened hearth with 20mm cannons and 7.7 equipment guns. Zeamer fired back from his nose gun, hitting Uki’s wings, but not ahead of Uki’s 20mm cannon smashed the Plexiglas, strike Sarnoski, cut open up his side, sent him flying back into the catwalk beneath, and shredding Zeamer’s legs and feet with shrapnel.

Second Lt. Ruby Johnston, the navigator, ran to enable Sarnoski, but the latter waved him off and dragged himself again to his guns. He took out a Dinah and a Zero, but not right before the Zero’s cannon hit the cockpit, getting out their instruments and oxygen supply. Extra bullets discovered Zeamer‘s arms and ft, but he managed to dive down to 2,000 ft so they could breathe. Then they crashed into the sea.

Or so the Japanese formal report claimed. Despite blacking out several moments, Zeamer bought them again to foundation, but Sarnoski never got up from his machine gun. He had died firing his equipment gun, the only men Zeamer failed to return.

Upon landing, the co-pilot informed the floor crews to get Zeamer initially, but the floor crew said, “He’s gone!” Zeamer, on the other hand, was not lifeless,

Thanks to their mission, nevertheless, the Allies realized exactly how to avenge Sarnoski at Buka and Bougainville. For finishing a vitally critical mission, both equally Sarnoski and Zeamer just about every have been awarded the Medal of Honor, every other member of the crew was awarded the Distinguished Assistance Cross.

Jay Zeamer died on March 22, 2007, at St. Andrews Village in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. He was 88.

Previous 666 was returned to the United States in February 1944 and was salvaged at Albuquerque in August 1945. 

You can check out an 8-minute online video on the Old 666.

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Tags: 43rd Bomb Group, A6M Zero, Air Medal, B-17E, Battle of the Bismarck Sea, Bougainville, Bougainville Campaign, Buka, Distinguished Assistance Cross, Empress Augusta Bay, Typical Douglas MacArthur, Typical George Kenney’s, Hitler, Jay Zeamer, Joseph Raymond Sarnoski, Jr., Langley Subject, Grasp Sergeant, Medal of Honor, Medal of Honors, Mussolini, Operation Cartwheel, Papua New Guinea, Pearl Harbor, Philippines, Port Moresby Airport, Rabaul, Sarnoski, Silver Star, Solomon Islands, South Pacific, Complex Sergeant, The island of Rabaul, WWII, Zeamer