James Griffin was born on December 27, 1932, in Gates, Tennessee. He was commissioned through the U.S. Naval Academy on June 3, 1955, and was designated a Naval Aviator on October 3, 1956. He served with VA-83 during the Lebanon Crisis in 1958, where he flew missions off the aircraft carrier USS Essex. After serving another cruise aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal from 1959-1960, Griffin attended the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where he received a Masters degree in aeronautical engineering in 1963. He joined RVAH-13 flying RA-5C Vigilantes in 1964, where he served on two cruises to Southeast Asia between 1965 and 1967. CDR Griffin had completed over 100 combat missions when he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on May 19, 1967. He was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War, but died at the hands of the North Vietnamese two days later, on May 21, 1967. His remains were returned to the United States on March 13, 1974. James Griffin left behind his wife Dora and their two children, James and Glyn Carol.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.