James, Daniel, Jr., Gen

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
2-General Officer
Last AFSC Group
Special Identifiers
Primary Unit
1975-1977, Canadian NORAD Region, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)
Service Years
1942 - 1978
Officer Collar Insignia

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by TSgt Bill Cline (Bill) to remember James, Daniel, Jr., Gen USAF(Ret).

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Contact Info
Home Town
Last Address
Colorado Springs, CO

Date of Passing
Feb 25, 1978
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Section 2, Grave 4968B LH

 Official Badges 

Secretary of Defense Service Headquarters Air Force Commander WW II Honorable Discharge Pin

Air Force Retired 2

 Unofficial Badges 

Cold War Medal

 Military Association Memberships
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW)Air Force Association (AFA)National Aviation Hall of FameHistorical Airmen
  1978, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) - Assoc. Page
  1978, Air Force Association (AFA) [Verified] - Assoc. Page
  1993, National Aviation Hall of Fame
  2016, Historical Airmen [Verified]

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

Daniel "Chappie" James Jr. (11 February 1920 - 25 February 1978) was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, who in 1975 became the first African American to reach the rank of four star General.


Early life

Daniel James was born in 1920, in Pensacola, Florida, where he graduated from Washington High School in June 1937. From September 1937 to March 1942, he attended Tuskegee Institute, where he received a bachelor of science degree in physical education and completed civilian pilot training under the government-sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program.

Military career

Chappie won his wings and a commission in 1943 but did not see combat in World War II. He remained at Tuskegee as an instructor pilot in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program.  

Korean War

In September 1949, General James went to the Philippines as flight leader for the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Wing, at Clark Field. In July 1950, he left for Korea where he flew 101 combat missions in F-51 and F-80 aircraft.

General James returned to the United States and, in July 1951, went to Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts as an all-weather jet fighter pilot with the 58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and later became operations officer. In April 1953, he became commander of the 437th FIS and, in August 1955, he assumed command of the 60th FIS. While stationed at Otis, he received the Massachusetts Junior Chamber of Commerce 1954 award of "Young Man of the Year" for his outstanding community relations efforts. He graduated from the Air Command and Staff College in June 1957.

James next was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force as a staff officer in the Air Defense Division of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. In July 1960, he was transferred to the Royal Air Force Bentwaters in England, where he served successively as assistant director of operations and then director of operations, 81st Tactical Fighter Wing; commander, 92nd Tactical Fighter Squadron; and deputy commander for operations for the 81st Wing. In September 1964, General James was transferred to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, where he was director of operations training and later deputy commander for operations for the 4453nd Combat Crew Training Wing.

Vietnam War


General Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr. in front of his McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

James went to Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand in December 1966, as deputy commander for operations, 8th TFW, and in June 1967 was named wing vice commander, under Colonel Robin Olds, a triple ace. Both in their mid-40's, they formed a legendary team nicknamed "Blackman and Robin." James flew 78 combat missions into North Vietnam, many in the Hanoi/Haiphong area, and led a flight in the "Operation Bolo" Mig sweep in which seven Communist Mig-21's were destroyed, the highest total kill of any mission during the Vietnam War.

He was named vice commander of the 33d TFW at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in December 1967. While stationed at Eglin, the Florida State Jaycees named General James as Florida's "Outstanding American of the Year" for 1969, and he received the Jaycee Distinguished Service Award. He was transferred to Wheelus Air Base in the Libyan Arab Republic in August 1969 as Commander of the 7272nd Fighter Training Wing.

James became deputy assistant secretary of defense (public affairs) in March 1970 and was designated principal deputy assistant secretary of defense (public affairs) in April 1973. He assumed duty as vice commander of the Military Airlift Command, with headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, on September 1, 1974.

General James was promoted to four-star grade and assigned as commander in chief, NORAD/ADCOM, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, on September 1, 1975. In these dual capacities, he had operational command of all United States and Canadian strategic aerospace defense forces. He assumed duty as special assistant to the chief of staff, U.S. Air Force on December 6, 1977.

General James was widely known for his speeches on Americanism and patriotism for which he was editorialized in numerous national and international publications. Excerpts from some of the speeches have been read into the Congressional Record. He was awarded the George Washington Freedom Foundation Medal in 1967 and again in 1968. He received the Arnold Air Society Eugene M. Zuckert Award in 1970 for outstanding contributions to Air Force professionalism. His citation read "... fighter pilot with a magnificent record, public speaker, and eloquent spokesman for the American Dream we so rarely achieve."

Later achievements

Other civilian awards that General James received included the following: 1969—Builders of a Greater Arizona Award; 1970Phoenix Urban League Man of the Year Award, Distinguished Service Achievement Award from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity; 1971—American Legion National Commander's Public Relations Award, Veteran of Foreign Wars Commander in Chief's Gold Medal Award and Citation; 1975—Capital Press Club, Washington, D.C., Salute to Black Pioneers Award; 1976—Air Force Association Jimmy Doolittle Chapter Man of the Year Award, Florida Association of Broadcasters' Gold Medal Award, American Veterans of World War II Silver Helmet Award, United Service Organization Liberty Bell Award, Blackbook Minority Business and Reference Guidance Par Excellence Award, American Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award, United Negro College Fund's Distinguished Service Award, Horatio Alger Award, VFW Americanism Medal, Bishop Wright Air Industry Award, and the Kitty Hawk Award (Military). He was awarded honorary doctor of laws degrees from the University of West Florida in 1971, the University of Akron in 1973, Virginia State College in 1974, Delaware State College in 1975, and St. Louis University in 1976. He was named honorary national commander, Arnold Air Society in 1971.

General James died of a heart attack in February 1978 at the age of fifty-eight, less than a month after retiring from the Air Force.

General James's son, Lieutenant General Daniel James III also served in the United States Air Force and in the Texas Air National Guard. He served from 1995 to 2002 as the Adjutant General of the Texas National Guard (the first African American to hold the post), and as Director of the Air National Guard from 2002 to 2006. In the summer of 2006 he retired from the United States Air Force after 38 years of total commissioned service, on active duty and as an Air Guardsman, at the rank of Lieutenant General.

Other Comments:
Birth:   Feb. 11, 1920
Escambia County
Florida, USA
Death:   Feb. 25, 1978
Colorado Springs
El Paso County
Colorado, USA
United States Air Force General. He was the first African-American Four Star General in the United States Armed forces. James, who at the apogee of his career was the commander in chief of North American Air Defense Command and Air Force Aerospace Defense Command, joined the Army Air Force at a time when blacks were only allowed to work as laborers and cooks. At his childhood home near Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla., James often dreamed of flying for the Navy, but at the time none of the military branches allowed blacks to become pilots. He often told the story of when he was a young man, a naval officer ordered him to move to the back of the bus so he could sit down. James later said in a speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta that he did as he was told, but said he felt ashamed of himself and vowed to never let anyone or anything stand in his way again. After completing college at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he became an instructor with the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program. When the Army considered training blacks as pilots, James resigned his civilian post and entered the program as a student. He later graduated first in his class and received a commission as a second lieutenant. He next completed fighter pilot combat training at Selfridge Field, Mich., and was assigned to various units in the United States for the next six years. While the Air Force was considered "integrated," black pilots were not accepted socially or provided with equal opportunities or facilities. James became actively involved in several protests to provide equal treatment for blacks in the military. James' career spanned the beginning and end of an era. The era opened with the establishment of the Army Air Force flying school for blacks at Tuskegee--a crack in the discrimination barrier, but not segregation. It ended with his promotion to the highest military rank and high-level assignments. It proved that no position in the armed forces or society is closed to any person of outstanding ability and determination. (Reference: First Lieutenant Virgil W. Magee, US Air Force, Courtesy of Air Force Space Command News Service)
 Photo Album   (More...

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Aviator (Command)

 Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
  1943, OSVET (Prior Other Service Veteran)
 Duty Stations/ Advancement Schools
United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)99th Flying Training Squadron (Cadre)99th Fighter Squadron18th  Wing
12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron437th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron60th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
Air Command and Staff College (Student) Air Defense Sector - Washington92nd Tactical Fighter Squadron81st Tactical Fighter Squadron
RAF Bentwaters81st Fighter Wing8th Tactical Fighter Wing - Wolf Pack33rd Tactical Fighter Wing
7272nd Flying Training Wing (Staff)Department of Defense (DOD)Office of Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), Department of the Air Force, PentagonMilitary Airlift Command (MAC)
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)
  1943-1947, United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)
  1943-1949, 99th Flying Training Squadron (Cadre)
  1943-1949, 99th Fighter Squadron
  1949-1950, 18th Wing
  1949-1950, 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron
  1951-1953, 58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
  1953-1955, 437th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
  1955-1957, 1021A, 60th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
  1957-1957, Air Command and Staff College (Student)
  1957-1960, Air Defense Sector - Washington
  1960-1964, 92nd Tactical Fighter Squadron
  1960-1964, 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron
  1960-1964, RAF Bentwaters
  1964-1964, 81st Fighter Wing
  1966-1967, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing - Wolf Pack
  1967-1969, 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing
  1969-1969, 7272nd Flying Training Wing (Staff)
  1970-1973, Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense, Department of the Air Force, Pentagon
  1973-1974, Office of Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), Department of the Air Force, Pentagon
  1974-1975, Military Airlift Command (MAC)
  1975-1977, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)
  1975-1977, Canadian NORAD Region, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1945 World War II1
  1953-1953 Korean War/Korean Summer (1953)/Various Air Missions Over North Korea
  1965-1973 Various Air Missions over North Vietnam1
 Colleges Attended 
Tuskegee Institute
  1937-1942, Tuskegee Institute
 My Aircraft/Missiles
B-25 Mitchell  P-40 Warhawk/Kittyhawk  P-47 Thunderbolt (Jug)  F-86 Sabre  
F-89 Scorpion  P-51/F-51 Mustang  F-80/P-80 Shooting Star  F-4 Phantom  
  1943-2003, B-25 Mitchell
  1943-2003, P-40 Warhawk/Kittyhawk
  1947-2003, P-47 Thunderbolt (Jug)
  1950-2003, F-86 Sabre
  1951-2003, F-89 Scorpion
  2003-2003, P-51/F-51 Mustang
  2003-2003, F-80/P-80 Shooting Star
  2003-2003, F-4 Phantom
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