James Jabara was born on October 10, 1923, in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve on June 2, 1942, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on November 9, 1942. Jabara was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Moore Field, Texas, on October 1, 1943, and after completing P-51 Mustang training, he was assigned to the 382nd Fighter Squadron of the 363rd Fighter Group in England from April to August 1944. During this time, Lt Jabara was credited with the destruction of 1.5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus 1 probable and 1 damaged. He returned to combat with the 354th Fighter Squadron of the 355th Fighter Group in February 1945, serving with the occupation forces until December 1945. During World War II, Jabara also destroyed 5.5 enemy aircraft on the ground while strafing enemy airfields. After the war, he attended the Tactical Air School at Tyndall AFB, Florida, and later served with the 51st Fighter Group on Okinawa from 1947 to 1949. He was then assigned to the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing at New Castle County Airport, Delaware, and went with the group to Korea in December 1950. During his first tour in Korea, Capt Jabara was credited with destroying 6 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus 1 probable and 4 damaged, which made him the first jet-versus-jet ace in history. He served with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon and with Air Training Command at Scott AFB, Illinois, before returning to combat in Korea in January 1953. During his second tour, Maj Jabara destroyed another 9 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus 2 probables and 2 damaged, for a two-war total of 16.5 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air, 4 probables, 7 damaged, and 5.5 destroyed on the ground. He returned to the U.S. in July 1953 and served with Headquarters 32nd Air Division at Syracuse AFS, New York, before taking command of the 337th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Westover AFB, Massachusetts. Col Jabara's final assignment was as Commander of the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Homestead AFB, Florida, where he served from June 1965 until his death in an auto accident on November 17, 1966. During his last assignment, Col Jabara ferried aircraft to Vietnam and flew 1 combat mission. James and his daughter Carol Anne, who died on November 19 from injuries in the same auto accident, were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery.
His Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to James Jabara, Captain, U.S. Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, in action against enemy forces in the Republic of Korea on 20 May 1951, while flying as an element leader in "Baker" Flight, a formation of six aircraft flying a combat patrol over the Sinuiju-Yalu River area. Shortly after arriving over his target area, a superior number of enemy high performance jet aircraft were sighted. When the drop tank signal was given, two of the friendly aircraft were forced to withdraw because they could not jettison their external drop tanks. Captain Jabara was unable to release one of his tanks and was about to withdraw when he sighted another, larger group of enemy fighters join the original group which was bearing down on the remaining element of his flight. Despite the difficulty of controlling his aircraft with one tank still hanging on, Captain Jabara led his element in an attack on the enemy aircraft. In the ensuing battle Captain Jabara successfully disrupted the enemy formation and turned the tide of the engagement in favor of the friendly forces. During the attack on this formation he destroyed one enemy aircraft, forcing the pilot to eject from his aircraft before the enemy aircraft exploded in mid-air. Breaking off from his attack, he sighted another enemy formation preparing to attack friendly aircraft. Although low on fuel, alone and outnumbered six to one, he flew into their midst to divert them from their objective. During this process he shot down a second MIG-15, bringing his number of kills to six and making him the first jet ace in history.