Give That Man a Star

Official orders for Jay Zeamer's 1st Silver Star

According to the order itself, this is late by a day, due to an apparent transcription mistake in my calendar of events regarding the crew. Need to fix that. Yesterday, in 1943, Jay Zeamer was officially awarded his first Silver Star, this one for the November 20, 1942, mission that was, remarkably, his first combat mission as pilot-in-command of a B-17. The mission—a recon of Buna, the Vitiaz Strait, Rabaul, and Gasmata—was originally assigned with Hocutt as pilot and Zeamer as copilot, but when the plane got mired in the mud prior to take-off, Zeamer prevailed on Hocutt to switch places. The mission was no doubt more exciting than anyone expected, not least for Zeamer’s handling of the plane. You can read about it in more detail in the story of the crew on the website, but it’s enough to say here that Hocutt was sufficiently impressed to declare Zeamer… Continue reading

Captain Stoddard gets his plane

My dad, a lifelong pilot and engineer, has written a fine novel of World War II. He grew up during the war and lost an older cousin to flak over France in 1944, so he has a personal attachment to it. He actually wrote the book, titled Ad Astra (from the Kansas state motto), a few years ago, but on the occasion of creating a Kindle version of it, we’re perfecting and adding a bit to it and will be reprinting the paperback later this year. (In conjunction with a Kindle-version update to two of his other books as well.)   When I designed the cover, I needed a shot of a B-17 that wouldn’t present any rights issues for us. I settled on a shot Dad took of Collings’ “Nine-O-Nine” after we flew on her in Denton, TX, back in 2009. She was small enough on the cover that… Continue reading

Another puzzle piece found

Artwork depicting Japanese J1N1 attacking B-17

I love it when research in one area fills in gaps in another. It appears author, historian, and aviation artist Michael Claringbould has solved a lingering mystery in the Eager Beaver story. Richard Dunn hypothesized to me several years ago that the mystery plane could have been either a Ki 45 or 46 specially armed with 37mm cannon. He’d found that Type 2 two-seaters sporting 20mm and 12.7mm arrived with the 13th Flying Regiment at Rabaul in May 1943, and that lone wolf missions in areas frequented by heavy bombers on recon was part of their operations. It was feasible to him, then, that one could have encountered “Lucy” that day over Bougainville, completely unrelated to the naval Zero contingent the Eager Beavers stirred up on their Buka recon. Not only was it feasible, it turns out he was largely correct. In a post over at Jack Cook’s 5th Air… Continue reading


Photo of Collings Foundation B-17G "Nine-O-Nine" showing the front and four engines

If you visit my “About” page, you’ll see a photo of me sitting in the pilot seat of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G “Nine-O-Nine.”  I’ve had the pleasure of touring the plane a few times over the years on the Foundation’s annual stop around Dallas, but that was a special year because, with the Foundation’s local crew’s permission, I was able to get a private visit, before the crowds hit.  I was working on my feature screenplay about the Eager Beavers then, and wanted to have more time to get a feel for the plane than a typical twenty-minute walkthrough would allow.  Plus I just wanted the chance to be on the plane for an extended period of time to get even the slightest sense of what that was like.  I spent four hours on Nine-Oh-Nine that day.  Never got out.  Sat in the nose compartment for a good long time, taking… Continue reading