Jim Pirie was born on July 28, 1935, in Bessemer, Alabama. He entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program on July 1, 1955, and was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and designated a Naval Aviator in April 1957. His first assignment was at NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from May 1957 to January 1958, followed by A4D-1 (later redesignated A-4) Skyhawk Replacement Air Group (RAG) training with VA-44 at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, from March to October 1958. LtJg Pirie next served as an A-4 pilot with VA-34 at NAS Cecil Field, Florida, from October 1958 to July 1961, during which time the squadron deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex (CVS-9) in support of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961. Lt Pirie served at NAS South Weymouth, Massachusetts, from August 1963 to June 1965, and then attended A-4 RAG training with VA-125 at NAS Lemoore, California, from July to December 1965. After serving with VA-94 for a month, from December 1965 to January 1966, LCDR Pirie served as an A-4 pilot with VA-93 at NAS Lemoore and deployed to Southeast Asia aboard the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) from January to June 1966, and USS Hancock (CVA-19) from January 1967 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on June 22, 1967. After spending 2,069 days in captivity, CDR Pirie was released during Operation Homecoming on February 18, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California, and then served with the Naval Reserve Command in Birmingham, Alabama, from August 1973 to December 1976. His next assignment was as Executive Officer with the Naval Air Reserve Unit at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, from December 1976 to June 1978, followed by service as Director of Flight Programs on the Staff of the Chief of the Naval Reserve from August 1978 to April 1980. Capt Pirie served as the Commanding Officer of Naval Air Facility Washington, D.C., from May 1980 to June 1982, and then served as a Deputy with the Commander of the Naval Air Reserve Force from July 1982 until his retirement from the Navy on November 1, 1984. Jim Pirie died on May 9, 1998, and he was buried at the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Bessemer, Alabama.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action on 22 June 1967, while serving as a jet attack pilot with Attack Squadron NINETY-THREE (VA-93), embarked in U.S.S. HANCOCK (CVA-19), during aerial combat operations in Southeast Asia. As the strike leader, Commander Pirie participated in an extremely successful strike against the Hai Duong Railway Bridge in North Vietnam. Penetrating into the heart of the enemy's heaviest defense area, in the van of the main strike group, he maneuvered his division into a precision dive attack. Commander Pirie pressed home his strike in the face of a veritable wall of enemy fire, scoring a direct hit while destroying one complete span of bridge. By his valiant leadership, courageous fighting spirit, and unflagging devotion to duty, Commander Pirie reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.