James Lamar was born in 1927 in Eudora, Arkansas. He entered the U.S. Naval Reserve on May 9, 1945, served on active duty from July 1, 1945, to August 24, 1946, and received an honorable discharge on October 4, 1948, in order to enter the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force on October 5, 1948. Lamar was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Williams AFB, Arizona, on September 30, 1949, and then flew F-51 Mustang and F-80 Shooting Star fighters with the 40th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the 35th Fighter Interceptor Group in Japan and Korea from November 1949 to May 1951. After completing 100 combat missions in Korea, he served as a fighter gunnery instructor at Luke AFB, Arizona, from July 1951 to August 1955. His next assignment was as an F-86F and F-100 Super Sabre pilot with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing at Kadena AB, Okinawa, where he served from September 1955 to March 1958. During this time he deployed to Chiaye, Taiwan, for six months as an F-84 advisor to the Chinese 4th Fighter Wing. Capt Lamar then transferred to Vance AFB, Oklahoma, where he served as a flight instructor with the 3576th Pilot Training Squadron from May 1958 to April 1963. He then served with the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron at George AFB, California, and then at McConnell AFB, Kansas, from April 1963 to November 1965, and then deployed to Southeast Asia at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from November 1965 until he was shot down over North Vietnam and taken as a Prisoner of War on May 6, 1966. During this time he completed 17 combat missions in Laos and 84 in North Vietnam, for a total of 101 in Southeast Asia (bringing his total for two wars to 201 combat missions). After spending 2,474 days in captivity, Col Lamar was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Lackland AFB, Texas, and then attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C., from August 1973 until August 1974. Col Lamar's last assignment was as Vice Commander of the 602nd Tactical Air Control Wing at Bergstrom AFB, Texas, where he served from August 1974 until his retirement from the Air Force on May 31, 1976. He and his wife Judy have seven children.
His 1st Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as Pilot of an F-105D Thunderchief of the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action over North Vietnam, on 6 May 1966. On that date, Colonel Lamar led a flight of four F-105D's tasked with the mission to destroy a target of vital importance to the aggressor forces. Flying through adverse weather, the flight encountered intense and accurate hostile fire as they passed over the last mountain ridge into the target area. Colonel Lamar initiated a pop-up maneuver through the intense anti-aircraft fire and courageously began his bomb attack. Although his aircraft received a direct hit which later forced him to eject over hostile territory, Colonel Lamar gallantly continued his attack, delivering his high explosive ordnance directly on target. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Colonel Lamar has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.