Medal of Honor Recipient Jay Zeamer Jr., 88

Associated Press
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Jay Zeamer Jr., 88, a World War II bomber pilot who was awarded the Medal of Honor, died March 22 at a nursing home in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Zeamer, a major in the Army Air Forces, received the military's highest award for valor for fighting off enemy attacks during a photographic mapping mission in which he suffered wounds that caused him to lose consciousness.

A native of Carlisle, Pa., Mr. Zeamer grew up in Orange, N.J., and spent most of his summers in Boothbay Harbor, rowing his homemade boat across the water. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering.

Mr. Zeamer, who enrolled in the Army ROTC program at MIT, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions June 16, 1943, after volunteering for a mapping mission over an area near Buka in the Solomon Islands that was well-defended by the Japanese.

While photographing the Buka airdrome, Mr. Zeamer's crew spotted about 20 enemy fighters on the field, many of them taking off. Mr. Zeamer continued with the mapping run, even after an enemy attack in which he suffered gunshot wounds in both 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 Mr. 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.

Mr. Zeamer's wounded bombardier, 2nd Lt. Joseph Sarnoski Jr. of Simpson, Pa., who shot down two of the planes and kept firing until he collapsed on his guns, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

After the war, Mr. Zeamer worked at Pratt & Whitney in Hartford, Conn., before moving on to Hughes Aircraft in Los Angeles and then Raytheon in Bedford, Mass. He retired in 1968 to Boothbay Harbor, where he bought a skiff and oars and rowed around the harbor.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara Zeamer, and their five daughters.

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