The expedition co-leaders of The Lake Murray B-25 Rescue Project-- Robert S. Seigler, John A. Hodge, and William F. Vartorella--have received the Order of the Palmetto, the State of South Carolina Governor’s most prestigious civilian award, for their successful retrieval of a rare WWII warbird from beneath 150 feet of water in 2005.
Then, Explorers Club Flag #103 flew over the site in the middle of Lake Murray, South Carolina, while expedition divers, riggers, and team strategists struggled with the sunken B-25 bomber and against the deflecting elements of a hurricane.
During the roughly two-week expedition, some 50 mass media covered portions of it "live," including the all-critical water-to-air-to-land crane lift that hoisted the rare airplane onto its beach cradle. The History Channel featured the retrieval as part of its "Mega-Mover" series, which has been seen by some 50 million viewers worldwide (and counting).
The award ceremony occurred at the South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC, as part of the small exhibit on the warbird entitled "Catch of the Day," which runs through January, 2009.
Two SC State Senators officiated, as the Governor’s last minute schedule changes prevented his participation.
Best estimates are the flag expedition is one of the most covered by major global media in the history of the Explorers Club and one of the few followed in "real-time" by major news outlets such as CNN, UPI, Associated Press, Fox News, USA Today, Charlotte Observer, Washington Times, local affiliates of NBC, ABC, and CBS, plus a host of enthusiast publications such as Aviation News, Warbirds, Fly Past, German aviation media, and a coterie of local, State, and regional media, plus U.S. military publications. At its height, some 10 million viewers-readers daily followed the Expedition globally and on the Internet. Other EC Fellows, Members, and Friends who participated in the plane’s disassembly on the beach or supported the exhibit’s opening include Dale Boozer, Stephen Cantrell, Janet Ciegler, Jim Knight, Jon Leader, Warner Montgomery, Nena Rice, Bruce Rippeteau, John Safko, and Steve Shaffer.
The Order of the Palmetto was created by Governor John West in 1971 to recognize lifetime achievement and service. It was modeled on similar honors, such as the Kentucky Colonel and North Carolina's Order of the Longleaf Pine. In 2003, a panel was created to establish firm criteria for award eligibility.