Zeamer in the 22nd – A New View

Screencap of Jay Zeamer individual flight record

Today is Jay Zeamer’s birthday.  The lieutenant colonel would have turned 101 years old. It was rather a coincidence to realize that last night as I planned to make this post today, which deals with how some newly acquired documents—Zeamer’s official flight records—both significantly alter and confirm our understanding of an important part of his wartime history, and reveal some of the inevitable struggles of historical accuracy. I’ve made it plain from the start, twenty-five years ago, that accuracy has been my primary focus in telling this story.  (In all things, for that matter.)  I wanted to tell the real story of this crew.  The most profound result of that originally was the felling of various dramatic fables about the nature of the crew and ‘666.  They weren’t screw-offs and misfits, and it wasn’t a broken wreck in the boneyard they had to piece together to have a plane to… Continue reading

Jay Zeamer meets “Old 666”

A photo of 41-2666, or Old 666, as it would have looked when Jay Zeamer found it

On May 14, 1943, Jay Zeamer handed over the reins as squadron operations officer of the 65th Bombardment Squadron, and took up the reins of squadron executive officer, thereby taking charge of administrative duties of the day-to-day operation of the 65th. The next day, May 15, he and the Eager Beavers had a mission during which they were credited with shooting down a Zero. The exact circumstances are unknown, existing in the murky land of conflicting records. The official credit records that it happened near Gasmata, across the Solomon Sea on the southern coast of New Britain, as part of a three-plane mission. Zeamer himself writes in his flight log for that day that the Eager Beavers led a six-plane mission to New Guinea’s Huon Gulf. Zeamer says the Zero “crashed into the sea.” Until something clearer turns up, all we know is that the crew had a mission that… Continue reading

Onward March

An aerial photo of RAAF Laverton Airbase during World War II

March 14/16, 1942 Mid-March 1942 was a significant time in the Southwest Pacific theater, marked by one of the most notable events of World War II, as well as some lesser events, woven through the fabric of the Eager Beavers story, whose import would only be known in time. On the 14th, the 40th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 19th Bomb Group was formed at Townsville in northern Australia, and flew its first mission that day. The 40th would become well-known in the coming months under its new designation, the 435th Bomb Squadron, which it would receive in April. It was another step in the 19th’s ascension to primary bomb group in the theater; elements of the 7th Bomb Group were, that very day, ceasing operations in Australia, or more tragically, in the case of the ground echelon of the 14th Bomb Squadron, fighting for their lives as infantry at Mindanao… Continue reading

Traveling to Oz

February 25 This day in 1942 was a happy day for Joe Sarnoski, “Rocky” Stone, and the rest of the 13th Reconnaissance Squadron (soon to be renamed the 403rd Bombardment Squadron). That day they lined the rail of the transport ship U.S.S. Argentina to gaze on the hazy outline of the Australian coast. They had been at sea for thirty-two days, having left Brooklyn, New York, on January 23, with eight other transports, traveling under the protection of three cruisers and eight destroyers of the U.S. Navy. Over that month they had endured the highs and lows of five thousand men packed together on a single ship, most at sea for the first time, sailing to an unknown future as saviors of a distant land most knew only by name and caricature. They had watched wistfully as they passed within sight of the Florida Keys. They had been raised by… Continue reading