Joseph Sarnoski was born on January 31, 1915, in Simpson, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on March 7, 1936, and served as an aircraft armorer with the 2nd Bomb Group at Langley Field, Virginia, and then as a B-17 Flying Fortress bombardier with the 41st Reconnaissance Squadron of the 2nd Bomb Group at Langley until September 1941. MSgt Sarnoski next served as a B-17 bombardier and bombing instructor with the 65th Bomb Squadron of the 43rd Bomb Group at Dow Field, Maine, from September 1941 to February 1942, and then deployed with the same unit to Australia from March to September 1942. He then moved with the unit to Port Moresby, New Guinea, in September 1942, and received a battlefield promotion to 2nd Lieutenant on May 24, 1943. Lt Sarnoski was credited with shooting down 2 enemy fighters from the nose gun on his B-17 before being killed in action on the same mission on June 16, 1943. He was originally buried in New Guinea, but his remains were reinterred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, on January 6, 1949.
His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. On 16 June 1943, 2d Lt. Sarnoski volunteered as bombardier of a crew on an important photographic mapping mission covering the heavily defended Buka area, Solomon Islands. When the mission was nearly completed, about 20 enemy fighters intercepted. At the nose guns, 2d Lt. 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 5 of the crew, 2d Lt. Sarnoski, though wounded, continued firing and shot down 2 enemy planes. A 20-millimeter 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. 2d Lt. Sarnoski by resolute defense of his aircraft at the price of his life, made possible the completion of a vitally important mission.