James Jabara was born in October 1923, in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Growing up, all Jabara ever wanted was to become a pilot. He got his chance after high school when he enlisted in the aviation cadet program at Fort Riley, Kansas. In 1943, Jabara received his pilot wings and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Forces.
In 1944, Jabara deployed with the 363rd Fighter Group to fight in World War II. Jabara served as a fighter pilot and targeted German railroads in Belgium during his first mission. One of Jabara’s most notable missions occurred in March 1944, when he was escorting American bombers in Germany. His contingent was attacked by German forces, and Jabara’s canopy was shot off during the fight. Freezing but undeterred, Jabara pursued and shot down a German plane. Jabara continued flying missions until he went back to the U.S. in October 1944. He returned to Europe the following year for a second tour. In total, Jabara flew 108 missions, received credit for shooting down one and a half German aircraft and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster and an Air Medal with 18 oak leaf clusters.
After World War II, Jabara served with the 53rd Fighter Group in Japan. Later, Jabara served in various capacities in the U.S. until December 1950, when he deployed to fight in the Korean War. Jabara served with the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing, and flew the North American F-86 Sabre jet against Korean MiG-15 jet fighters. In April 1951, Jabara shot down his first MiG-15 and followed up with three more victories in the same month.
In May, Jabara transferred to the 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadron after his first squadron went to Japan. Soon after, Jabara took part in a mission to help a besieged Sabre patrol near Sinuiju, Korea. Upon reaching the patrol’s location, Jabara engaged in a 20-minute battle with 50 Korean MiG-15s. During the battle, Jabara became the first American jet ace after shooting down two MiG-15s.
After the battle, Jabara went back to the U.S. where he embarked on a publicity tour for the Air Force. After his tour, Jabara helped train fighter pilots at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. In 1952, Jabara did a second tour in Korea where he became a triple ace after shooting down nine more MiG-15s for a total of 15 victories in the war. This made him the second highest-scoring American Korean War ace. During his service in Korea, Jabara received a Distinguished Service Cross and a Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster.
On Nov. 17, 1966, Jabara died in a car crash in Florida while awaiting deployment to Vietnam.
Jabara is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Raymond Lin
Editor: Erica MacSweeney, Katherine Berman
Fact checker: Jordan Gossett
Graphic artist: Courtney Carr