Eugene Sonnenberg was born on February 15, 1920, in Chicago, Illinois, and he graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor's Degree in Education in 1942. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on November 21, 1941, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Navy on April 9, 1942. Sonnenberg was commissioned an Ensign and was designated a Naval Aviator on December 18, 1942, and was stationed in the European Theater in the Atlantic from May 1943 to January 1944. He served as an SB2C Helldiver pilot in the Pacific with VBF-2 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) from January to November 1944, and he left active duty and entered the U.S. Naval Reserve on November 17, 1945. Sonnenberg transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces on February 11, 1947, and took an enlisted position as an aircraft mechanic before receiving a commission as a Captain on August 21, 1950. He then received refresher flight training and flew F-84 Thunderjets in Korea from January to December 1952. After the war, Maj Sonnenberg served as Chief of the Air Proving Ground Center Liaison Office with the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, California, from 1953 to December 1958, and then attended Royal Air Force Staff College in London, England, from December 1958 to December 1959. His next assignment was as an Operations Officer and Project Officer with the Inspector General Group at Norton AFB, California, from January 1960 to July 1966. During this time he flew combat missions while on Temporary Duty to Vietnam in January 1964. Col Sonnenberg was Assistant Air Attache to Laos from June 1967 to June 1969, during which time he flew combat missions throughout Southeast Asia. His next assignment was on the staff of 7th Air Force at Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from July 1969 to June 1970. He then returned to the Inspector General Group at Norton AFB, where he retired from the Air Force on September 1, 1970. Eugene Sonnenberg died on March 14, 2004.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Ensign Eugene Peter Sonnenberg, United States Naval (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Dive Bomber of Bombing Fighting Squadron TWO (VBF-2), attached to the U.S.S. HORNET (CV-12), on 20 June 1944, while deployed over the Philippine Sea. In the face of heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire opposition Ensign Sonnenberg pressed home a determined dive bombing attack scoring a hit on a large enemy carrier, thereby assisting materially in its destruction. While retiring from the attack he was engaged by two enemy fighters for fifteen minutes and by superior airmanship eluded them. His courage and skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.