Jim Hivner was born in 1931 in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. He received his BA degree in teaching in June 1953, but wanting to fly more than teach school, he entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force on November 23, 1953, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings on March 14, 1955. After gunnery school in the T-33 Shooting Star, he completed F-84F Thunderstreak training in September 1955. Lt Hivner served at Bergstrom AFB, Texas, from October 1955 to December 1959. He then transferred to Kadena AB, Okinawa, where he served from January 1960 to August 1962. Capt Hivner then served with the 45th, 46th, and then the 43rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at MacDill AFB, Florida, flying the F-84F and then the F-4C Phantom II, from August 1962 to October 1965. While on deployment to Southeast Asia, he was forced to eject over North Vietnam when his Phantom was hit twice by heavy antiaircraft fire, on October 5, 1965. He was captured almost immediately and spent the next 2,687 days in captivity before being released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. Col Hivner was briefly hospitalized and treated for beriberi, caused by severe malnutrition, but the resulting blind spots prevented him from getting back in the cockpit. He returned to Bergstrom AFB, in the logistics/supply field, until he retired from the Air Force on November 1, 1976. Jim and Phyllis, a Registered Nurse, were married in 1955 and have two daughters and four grandsons.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
Captain James O. Hivner distinguished himself by gallantry as Aircraft Commander of an F-4C Fighter-Bomber in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force over Southeast Asia on 5 October 1965. On that date, Captain Hivner's aircraft was struck by hostile antiaircraft fire while approaching its assigned target. Disregarding the ensuing fire and smoke, Captain Hivner displayed an extraordinary degree of courage as he determinedly continued his attack rather than abort the mission, and dropped his bombs squarely on target. Then after a futile attempt to further control his damaged aircraft, Captain Hivner was forced to eject while deep within hostile territory. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Captain Hivner has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.