Jim Starnes was born on March 19, 1924, in Clarkton, North Carolina, and was raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve on July 8, 1942, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on February 3, 1943. Starnes was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Marianna Field, Florida, on November 3, 1943, and after completing P-47 Thunderbolt training, he was assigned to the 505th Fighter Squadron of the 339th Fighter Group in January 1944, and deployed with the squadron to England in March 1944. He was credited with destroying 6 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus 6 more on the ground while strafing enemy airfields, between May 1944 and March 1945. Capt Starnes remained in Europe after the war, and served with the 12th Tactical Air Command from November 1945 to February 1946, and with the 55th Fighter Group from March to June 1946. He then served with the 31st Fighter Group until returning to the U.S. in October 1946. His next assignment was with the 48th Fighter Squadron of the 14th Fighter Group at Dow AFB, Maine, where he served from January 1947 to July 1948, followed by an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to Boston University from July 1948 to August 1950. He then served with Headquarters 10th Air Force at Selfridge AFB, Michigan, from September 1950 to May 1951, and then as an Air Force ROTC instructor at the University of Illinois from May 1951 to September 1954. Maj Starnes then completed advanced jet fighter training before serving on the staff of Headquarters Far East Air Forces in Tokyo, Japan, from April 1955 to August 1956, followed by Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, from August 1956 to July 1957. He served on the staff of Headquarters 9th Air Force at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from July 1957 to May 1960, and then on the staff of Allied Air Forces Northern Europe in Oslo, Norway, until July 1963. Col Starnes served on the staff of U.S. Strike Command at MacDill AFB, Florida, from December 1963 to September 1967, and then served as Assistant to the Commander of the 15th Tactical Fighter Wing, also at MacDill, until May 1968. He then deployed to Southeast Asia, where he served first as the Commander of the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center and then as Commander of the 7th Airborne Command and Control Squadron (7th ACCS) at Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, flying the EC-130E ABCCC aircraft, from May 1968 to June 1969. Col Starnes then served as a Director of Test Facilities with the Tactical Air Warfare Center at Eglin AFB, Florida, from July 1969 to August 1970, followed by service as Deputy Commander and then Commander of the 1928th Communications Group at MacDill AFB from August 1970 to June 1972. His final assignment was as Deputy Commander of the 1931st Communications Group at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, where he served from June 1972 until his retirement from the Air Force on November 1, 1974. Jim Starnes died on September 4, 2010.
His 2nd Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary achievement and heroism in aerial combat, the destruction of two enemy airplanes and for sharing in the destruction of one enemy airplane over enemy occupied Continental Europe. The skillful and zealous manner in which Lt. Starnes has sought out the enemy and destroyed him, his devotion to duty and courage under all conditions serve as an inspiration to his fellow flyers. His actions on all those occasions reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.