The Eager Beavers

Lt. Col. Jay Zeamer and his crew, the Eager Beavers, were a B-17 bomber crew stationed in Australia and New Guinea in 1942-43.  So named for Zeamer’s constant volunteering for missions, they served during the crucial early period in the war in the southwest Pacific, defending Australia from invasion by the Japanese before pivoting to take the offensive against Japan.

They are the most highly decorated
air crew in American history.

This website is the result of almost thirty years of research into the story of this remarkable crew. Originally it was begun in support of a feature film screenplay, but continued and deepened through a complete rewrite of that original script and, most recently, a miniseries adaptation of the story I'm currently shopping to the entertainment industry. (An historical novel was begun, but postponed to focus on the series adaptation.)

The aim of all is to increase public awareness of this historic crew, and the website in particular to provide the most comprehensive, authoritative resource about it. Unfortunately, many mistakes and myths created in early accounts of the crew have persisted over the decades, continuing even in recent years in popular history books.  This site corrects the record to create a more accurate portrait of Zeamer's crew and their experiences.

It does that in part through a wide collection of official records and primary source materials—crew statements and military records, group histories, squadron diaries and morning reports.

Mostly, though, it is due to the incredible generosity over the years of dozens of people ranging from the veterans themselves and their families to experts literally from around the world in everything from the history of the B-17 to the flora and fauna of Northern Australia.

They are the people who gifted me with hours of their time via phone and e-mail, answered extensive questionnaires, and provided me with additional military records, photos, personal letters, diaries, articles, news clippings, and even videos and personal effects, all in the name of ensuring the portraits of the crew members are authentic.

A full accounting would be practically impossible, but the list below gives a view to the scope of the research involved in these projects.  I hope you enjoy the site, and getting to know the exceptional men of Zeamer’s Eager Beavers.

Clint Hayes
Princeton, TX


(final rank indicated)


The Eager Beavers
Lt. Col. Jay Zeamer Jr.

Lt. William Vaughan (regular crew)
S/Sgt. Herb Pugh (regular crew)
Col. Ruby Johnston (regular crew)
Lt. Col. J.T. Britton (copilot, 16 June 1943 mission)


22nd Bomb Group
Maj. Walter Krell (19th BS)

Capt. John Wells (408th BS)

43rd Bomb Group
1st Lt. Lloyd Boren (65th)

Capt. Richard Bennett (65th)
T/Sgt. Frank Hohmann (403rd & 65th/43rd, also 93rd/19th)
M/Sgt. Ed Gammill (63rd)
Maj. Milton “Bud” Gusack (65th)
Maj. Bill Wilson (65th)
Col. David Hassemer (65th)


8th Photo Recon Squadron
T/Sgt. Jim McEwan

Family Members
Lt. Col. Jay Zeamer, Jr. (spouse)
2nd Lt. Joseph Sarnoski (two brothers, sister, nephew, niece)
1st Sgt. Johnnie Able, Jr. (daughter)
M/Sgt. Emil “Bud” Thues (brother, son)
Lt. William Vaughan (son, daughter)
Capt. George Kendrick (step-brother)
S/Sgt. Herb Pugh (spouse, daughter)
Capt. Hank Dyminski (two sons, daughter)
Col. Ruby Johnston (son)
Lt. Col. J.T. Britton (son, daughter)
Col. Art Durbeck (spouse)
Maj. Milton “Doc” Gusack (son)


Crew Statements on 16 June 1943 Mission
(given in support of Zeamer CMoH)
1st Sgt. Johnnie Able, Jr.
Lt. Col. J. T. Britton
Capt. George Kendrick
S/Sgt. Herb Pugh
M/Sgt. Forrest Dillman

Capt. Henry “Hank” Dyminski
T/Sgt. William Eaton (403rd/43rd)
M/Sgt. Ed Gammill
T/Sgt. Frank Hohmann
Col. Art Durbeck (403rd/43rd)

Personal Letters
Lt. Col. Jay Zeamer, Jr.
2nd Lt. Joseph Sarnoski
1st Sgt. Johnnie Able, Jr.

Flight Logs
Lt. Col. Jay Zeamer, Jr.
Capt. Henry “Hank” Dyminski

Individual Flight Records
Lt. Col. Jay Zeamer, Jr.
2nd Lt. Joseph Sarnoski

Official Histories and Diaries
43rd Bomb Group
63rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd BG
65th Bomb Squadron, 43rd BG
403rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd BG
8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron

Squadron Reports
Morning Reports, 403rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd BG
Morning Reports, 65th Bomb Squadron, 43rd BG
Morning Reports, 19th Bomb Squadron, 22nd BG
Payroll Reports, 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, 5th AF


David Armstrong, Researcher
Joe Bowman, Author/Historian
Larry Hickey, Author/Historian, IHRA
Steve Birdsall, Author/Historian
Damian Waters, Author/Historian
Roger Marks, Author/Historian
Chuck Varney, Historian
Richard Dunn, Author/Historian
Randy Ashenbranner, Researcher
Geoff Gentilini, Researcher
Ed Rogers, Author/Historian
Bruce Hoy, former curator, PNG War Museum
Michael Musumeci, Author/Historian
Barrett Tillman, Author/Historian
Michael Claringbould, Author/Historian/Artist


Skip Bombing, Capt. Jim Murphy, 63rd BS/43rd BG
Ken's Men Against the Empire, Hickey/Birdsall/Jonas/Rogers/Tagaya
Revenge of the Red Raiders, Gaylor/Evans/Nelson/Hickey
The Eight Ballers: Eyes of the Fifth Air Force, John Stanaway & Bob Rocker
Beau’s, Butchers, and Boomerangs, Damian Waters
Fortress Against the Sun, Gene Eric Salecker
Fire in the Sky, Eric M. Bergurud
Flying Forts, Martin Caidin
General Kenney Reports, General George Kenney
American Magazine
Liberty Magazine
OzatWar.com, Peter Dunn
HyperWar US Army Air Forces in World War II
Trove - National Library of Australia

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