Jay Zeamer was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry Reserve in September 1939, but took training as a flying cadet and earned his wings in March 1941. He served as an Engineering Officer and pilot with the 96th, 63rd, and l9th Bomb Squadrons at Langley Field, Va. from March 1941 to September 1942, during which time he was promoted to first lieutenant and also earned a BS degree in Civil Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Zeamer went to the Southwest Pacific in October 1942, and flew reconnaissance bombers in combat. Promoted to captain in April 1943, he was injured during a mission on June 16, for which he received the Medal of Honor.
Volunteering as pilot of a bomber to photograph the formidable defended area in the vicinity of Buka, Solomon Islands, Zeamer's crew observed about 20 enemy fighters on the field. many of them taking off.
The citation for the nation's highest award reads, in part: " . . . Despite the certainty of a dangerous attack by this strong force, Captain Zeamer proceeded with his mapping run, even after the enemy attack began.
In the ensuing engagement, he sustained gunshot wounds in both arms and legs, one leg being, broken. Despite his in injuries, he maneuvered the damaged plane so skillfully that his gunners were able to fight off the enemy during a running fight lasting 40 minutes, and to destroy at least five hostile planes, of which Captain Zeamer himself shot down one. 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 and, despite lapses into unconsciousness, to direct the flight to a base 580 miles away. In this voluntary action, Captain Zeamer with superb skill, resolution, and courage accomplished a mission of great value."
Captain Zeamer, who also earned two each Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals. was returned to the United States and confined at Walter Reed General Hospital. He was promoted to major July 8, 1943, went back on duty in March 1944, and was advanced to lieutenant colonel the following month. He served as Tactical Field Air Inspector for the Army Air Force at Mitchell Field, N.Y., until Jan. 18, 1945, when he retired by reason of physical disability.
See the full citation at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.
For more information see the National Museum of the USAF website.