Joseph Sarnoski enlisted in the Army at Baltimore, Md, Mar. 7, 1936, and served as a private for three years at Langley Field, Va., where he took a course in advanced aircraft armament. In Jan.1940 he reenlisted and the next month was a sergeant at Lowry Field, Colo., where he graduated from the Air Corps Technical School in Bomb Sight Maintenance. He returned to Langley Field for promotion to staff sergeant and assignment to the 31st Reconnaissance Squadron, and with this unit he went to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater in January 1942. He flew a number of missions as an enlisted bombardier and was promoted to technical sergeant in March 1942, and to master sergeant three months later. He earned the Silver Star and Air Medal on combat missions.
In May 1943, Lieutenant Sarnoski received a combat commission as second lieutenant and on June 4 was assigned to the 43rd Bomb Group's 65th Squadron. On June 16, he volunteered as bombardier on an important photographic mission covering the heavily defended Buka area in the Solomon Islands, where he lost his life.
The Medal of Honor for this heroic action is cited in part: "...When the mission was nearly completed, about 20 enemy fighters intercepted at the nose guns, Lieutenant Sarnoski fought off the first attackers, making it possible for the pilot to finish the plotted course. When a coordinated frontal attack by the enemy extensively damaged his bomber, and seriously injured five of the crew, Lieutenant Sarnoski, though wounded, continued firing and shot down two enemy planes. A 20-mm. Shell, which burst in the nose of the bomber, knocked him into the catwalk under the cockpit. With indomitable fighting spirit, he crawled back to his post and kept on firing until he collapsed on his guns. Lieutenant Sarnoski, by resolute defense of his aircraft at the price of his life, made possible the completion of a vitally important mission."
See the full citation at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.