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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 28, 2016
By the summer of 1942, the Americans had checked the Japanese advance, first at Midway, then on Guadalcanal. Finally, the Americans had the Japanese on the defensive. As the tide continued to turn against the Japanese, small elements of American airmen reached an airbase on Papua, New Guinea. These pilots were tasked with bombing missions against the Japanese, while also photographing various islands before American forces went in. Among these men were pilot Jay Zeamer and his bombardier Joe Sarnoski. In "Lucky 666", authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin describe Zeamer's most harrowing mission; one that would go down in the annals of U.S. Army Air Force history.

Zeamer had recruited his own crew after unsuccessfully trying to get his own plane. Named the Eager Beavers, Zeamer's crew managed to get a hold of a beat-up B-17. Adding extra guns, Zeamer made Old 666 into a gunship bristling with .50 cal. machine guns. One day in June, 1943, a request for volunteers to fly to Bougainville and map the coastline and beaches was made. Zeamer and his crew volunteered immediately. What happened on that mission became the stuff of legend, as Old 666 engaged upwards of twenty enemy planes while performing the mapping run. No fewer than five fell to the guns of the B-17, while several others were severely damaged. This running gun battle lasted for over one hundred miles and forty minutes before the Japanese broke off. Zeamer, badly wounded, and his crew were still able to land their plane with the valuable rolls of film intact. Unfortunately, only one of the two friends survived. Two Medals of Honor were awarded, along with seven Distinguished Service Crosses. This made the crew of Old 666 the most highly decorated combat aircrew in the history of American military service.

"Lucky 666" is a wonderful book that tells a heroic tale of an ordinary B-17 crew who volunteered for an extremely dangerous mission. These brave men succeeded on every level; not only flying for the United States, but also for each other. The book is well-written, and the details of the fateful mission are described in vivid detail. These brave men were a credit to their country, and their bravery ultimately saved the lives of countless others. Highly recommended.
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