As we near Veterans Day November 11, we are honoring some of our favorite heroes….
Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2007
Jay Zeamer Jr., a World War II bomber pilot who was awarded the Medal of Honor for fighting off enemy attacks during a photographic mapping mission, died 15 March 2007 at a nursing home in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. He was 88.
Zeamer, a major in the Army Air Forces, also earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars and two Air Medals for his service in the South Pacific.
He was awarded the nation’s highest military honor for his actions on June 16, 1943, after volunteering for the mapping mission over an area near Buka in the Solomon Islands that was well-defended by the Japanese.
|Lt. Col Jay Zeamer, Jr.
United States Army Air Corps
While photographing the Buka airdrome, Zeamer’s crew spotted about 20 enemy fighters on the field, many of them taking off. But Zeamer continued with the mapping run, even after an enemy attack in which he suffered gunshot wounds in his arms and legs that left one leg broken.
Despite his injuries, he maneuvered the damaged plane so that his gunners could fend off the attack during a 40-minute fight in which at least five enemy planes were destroyed, one by Zeamer and four by his crew.
“Although weak from loss of blood, he refused medical aid until the enemy had broken combat. He then turned over the controls but continued to exercise command, despite lapses into unconsciousness, and directed the flight to a base 580 miles away,” according to the citation posted by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
He had been listed by the society as one of 36 living Medal of Honor recipients from World War II.
Second Lt. Joseph Sarnoski Jr. of Simpson, Pa., Zeamer’s wounded bombardier, shot down two of the planes and kept firing until he collapsed on his guns. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Zeamer’s wife, Barbara, said her husband rarely talked about his experience during the war.
“His daughters never knew he’d won the Medal of Honor until they were in junior high school,” she said. “I think he didn’t feel he deserved it. He was so close to his bombardier, and he felt terrible about his being killed.”
A native of Carlisle, Pa., Zeamer grew up in Orange, N.J. He studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering.
After the war, Zeamer worked at Pratt & Whitney in Hartford, Conn., before moving on to Hughes Aircraft in Los Angeles and then Raytheon Co. in Bedford, Mass. He retired in 1968 to Boothbay Harbor, where he had spent summers as a boy, rowing his homemade boat across the harbor.
In addition to his wife, Zeamer’s survivors include their five daughters.
He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to:
ZEAMER, JAY JR. (Air Mission)Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army Air Corps. Place and date: Over Buka area, Solomon Islands, 16 June 1943. Entered service at: Machias, Maine. Birth: Carlisle, Pa. G.O. No.: 1, 4 January 1944.
On 16 June 1943, Major Zeamer (then Captain) volunteered as pilot of a bomber on an important photographic mapping mission covering the formidably defended area in the vicinity of Buka, Solomon Islands. While photographing the Buka airdrome. his crew observed about 20 enemy fighters on the field, many of them taking off. Despite the certainty of a dangerous attack by this strong force, Major Zeamer proceeded with his mapping run, even after the enemy attack began. In the ensuing engagement, Major Zeamer sustained gunshot wounds in both arms and legs, one leg being broken. Despite his injuries, he maneuvered the damaged plane so skillfully that his gunners were able to fight off the enemy during a running fight which lasted 40 minutes. The crew destroyed at least 5 hostile planes, of which Major Zeamer himself shot down one. Although weak from loss of blood, he refused medical aid until the enemy had broken combat. He then turned over the controls, but continued to exercise command despite lapses into unconsciousness, and directed the flight to a base 580 miles away. In this voluntary action, Major Zeamer, with superb skill, resolution, and courage, accomplished a mission of great value.