Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID


   
honoree image
First Name: James

Last Name: Jabara

Birthplace: Muskogee, OK, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)







Date of Birth: 10 October 1923

Date of Death: 17 November 1966

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
James Jabara
'Jabby'

   
Engagements:
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)

Biography:

James "Jabby" Jabara
Colonel, U.S. Air Force

James Jabara was born on 10 October 1923 in Muskogee, OK, of Lebanese-American descent; his father, John, and mother came from Marjayoun, Lebanon. Jabara joined the Boy Scouts, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout. At an early age, he was set on becoming a pilot, "I used to read articles about [Eddie] Rickenbacker and all these novels you read about air combat, and I guess from the sixth grade it was my ambition to be a fighter pilot." He worked at his parents' grocery store and graduated from Wichita North High School in Wichita, KS, in May 1942.

Standing five feet, five inches tall, Jabara was short for a potential fighter pilot (and was reportedly required to wear corrective eyewear), but this did not prevent him from immediately enlisting as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Fort Riley, KS. In an attempt to improve his eyesight for flying, he ate 20 carrots a day in the mistaken belief that this would improve his vision. After attending four flying schools in Texas, he received his pilot's wings and a commission as Second Lieutenant at Moore Field, TX, in October 1943.

World War II

During World War II, the Allied forces fought German aircraft across the European Theater. The Allies used several fighter aircraft, including the North American P-51 Mustang. Jabara was assigned to two tours of combat duty as a P-51 pilot across Europe. His first tour lasted from January to October 1944 with the 363d Fighter Group of the Ninth Air Force. On his first mission he was assigned to attacking German railroad targets in Belgium. In a March 1944 mission while Jabara was escorting bombers to Germany, a German pilot shot off his canopy. Although he faced below freezing temperatures at the high altitude, he was able to shoot down a German aircraft before returning to base. During one mission, while in formation, he and another P-51 pilot collided in midair. They both safely bailed out. In another incident, while Jabara engaged a German aircraft, they collided in mid-air, and when both pilots safely floated to the ground, they met and shook hands. When Jabara's first tour ended, he returned to the U.S. as an instructor.

He returned to Europe again for his second tour from February to December 1945 with the 355th Group of the Eighth Air Force. During his European combat (and known then as "the Ceegar Kid" for his penchant for smoking cigars), Jabara flew 108 combat missions. He was credited with the destruction of one and a half German planes in aerial combat (the half considered shared with another pilot) and four on the ground.

After World War II, Jabara considered leaving the military to attend college, but later decided to attend the Tactical Air School at Tyndall Air Force Base, FL. From 1947-49 he was stationed on Okinawa with the 53d Fighter Group. At Okinawa in 1948, Jabara flew his first jet aircraft, the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star. Reflecting on the transition to jet aircraft, he said "It was entirely different. I was at 10,000 feet before I remembered to raise my landing gear. ...It was so quiet and fast. ...I guess that was probably the happiest moment of my life." Jabara, now a Captain, returned to the U.S. and was assigned as a flight commander with the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, flying the newly operational North American F-86 Sabre jet fighter at the New Castle County Airport in Delaware.

Korean War

Before the start of the Korean War, the Korean Peninsula was split by an American-backed government at the south and a Soviet-backed opposing government at the north. Divided by the 38th Parallel, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to maintain the division until a mutual decision was made about the future of the peninsula. On 25 June 1950, North Korean troops crossed the parallel and attacked several key South Korean targets. As the U.S. prepared to militarily assist the South Koreans, the Soviet Union helped the North Koreans by training pilots and providing MiG-15 aircraft.

Jabara arrived in Korea on 13 December 1950 with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing. The flight group was the first F-86 Sabre unit deployed to the Fifth Air Force to counter the threat by the Soviet MiG-15s. By 2 January 1951, he had flown five combat missions in F-86s and had damaged one MiG-15 Korean jet fighter in air combat. Jabara achieved his first confirmed victory on 3 April 1951 when 12 F-86 Sabres took on 12 MiG-15s in MiG Alley, a region in northwestern North Korea. He was credited with another on 10 April, a third on 12 April, and a fourth on 22 April. Eager to get his fifth victory to be deemed a flying ace, Jabara voluntarily transferred to the 335th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron when the 334th was rotated back to the U.S.

On 20 May, two flight groups of F-86 Sabres encountered multiple MiG-15s in MiG Alley, and through radio communications, two additional flights of F-86 Sabres joined the battle, including Jabara. In preparation for the oncoming battle, Jabara and the other F-86 Sabre pilots were ordered to jettison their auxiliary fuel tanks to improve their maneuverability. Jabara's fuel tank failed to separate from his wing, and protocol required he return to base as the plane would be impeded by the extra weight and imbalance, and limit his potential to match off with a MiG.

However, Jabara decided to continue to the air battle, where he was able to still handle his plane well enough to shoot down two MiG-15s with .50 caliber machine gun fire. The first was in a group of three MiGs and the other was the last in a six-plane flight group. Jabara was able to see the first plane explode from his gunfire, but he only saw his second victory go into a tailspin as he was avoiding being targeted by another MiG. His fifth and sixth victories made Jabara the first American in history to use jet aircraft to become an ace. The 20-minute air battle had included 36 F-86 Sabres against nearly 50 MiG-15s, and the American pilots recorded Jabara's two victories and another pilot's "probable." While returning to base, Jabara's F-86 Sabre was so low on fuel that he turned off the engine and glided towards the base before turning it on prior to landing. Jabara later stated in an interview, "That was my bag for the day, and it made me feel pretty good to know that I was the first jet ace in the history of aerial warfare." The mission was his 63rd Korean mission of an eventual 163.

Against his wishes, Jabara received a stateside leave for a publicity tour. The Jabara family grocery store in Wichita was thronged with people for days, and both he and his father John appeared on local and national radio and television. Wichita had one of its most-attended parades in the City's history. Jabara was even sent on a goodwill tour with his father through the Middle East, and gave a speech in his father's hometown of Marjayoun, Lebanon. Film newsreels included footage of his plane and other accolades included his own song ("That Jabara Bird") and a ritual rewarding of his Distinguished Service Cross at a Boston baseball game. Jabara returned to the U.S. in May 1951 for temporary assignment to Air Force Headquarters, Washington, DC. Two months later he was transferred to the Air Training Command at Scott Air Force Base, IL. Upon his request, he returned for another tour of duty overseas, arriving in Korea in January 1953.

Now a Major, on his second tour Jabara shot down nine more MiGs for a total of 15 victories. On 16 May 1953, he recorded his seventh victory, and on 26 May he shot down two additional MiGs for a total of nine for the war. On 10 June, Jabara shot down two more MiGs. Eight days later his flight group encountered four MiGs, and he encountered mechanical problems that nearly caused his aircraft to crash into a hill. After resolving his plane's issues, he returned to the battle and was able to shoot down an already damaged MiG. On 30 June, his first of two missions for the day resulted in one MiG victory. The second mission involved escorting F-86 Sabre fighter-bombers and he shot down a MiG before he came under heavy fire by other MiGs. In an attempt to evade their attack, he quickly accelerated but his engine flamed out. He maneuvered his aircraft toward the ocean for a potential water rescue if he crashed, but he was able to restart the engine and return to base.

Jabara recorded his final victory on 15 July. Two days later he flew his last two missions, and although he was eager to find more MiGs in an attempt to tie or surpass Joseph C. McConnell's 16 air victories, he did not see any opposing aircraft. His 15 victories gave him the title of "triple ace," and his Korean War victories were all against MiG-15s. During the Korean War, Jabara was second in American air victories to McConnell, who recorded 16. The Soviet Union had four other pilots who exceeded or tied Jabara's victories: Yevgeny Pepelyaev with 22.5, Nikolay V. Sutyagin with 22 and both Alexandr P. Smortzkow and Lev K. Schukin with 15.

After Korea

Jabara returned to the U.S. in July 1953, and was assigned as Commander of the 4750th Training Squadron at Yuma AFB, AZ. By January 1957, Jabara was at Eglin AFB, FL, to join the 3243rd Test Group to test Lockheed F-104 Starfighters. He was first reassigned to Headquarters of the 32d Air Division at Syracuse, NY, then assumed command of the 337th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Westover AFB, MA. In 1958, Jabara flew combat missions over Taiwan in the F-104 Starfighter. From July 1960 to June 1961, he attended and graduated from the Air War College in Montgomery, AL. At Carswell AFB, TX, Jabara piloted the first supersonic bomber, the Convair B-58 Hustler as part of the 43d Bomb Wing. Jabara also helped train NATO pilots on the F-104 Starfighter in July 1964, when he was stationed at Luke AFB, AZ, and he wrote of the aircraft's significant technological improvement over the F-86 Sabre.

In 1965, Jabara was given command of the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Homestead AFB, FL. By 1966 Jabara had risen to the rank of Colonel-the youngest at that rank at the time, and he volunteered to fly combat missions for the Vietnam War. He flew his first mission in July 1966, joining a F-100 Super Sabre flight group for a bombing run that damaged several buildings held by the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. He returned to Homestead about a week after the mission.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Cross (2 Awards)
Silver Star Medal (2 Awards)
Distinguished Flying Cross (7 Awards)
Air Medal (25 Awards)
Air Force Commendation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation

Badges

Command Pilot Badge

Honors

An airport outside of Wichita, KS, was named the Colonel James Jabara Airport in his honor.

Each year since 1968, the U.S. Air Force Academy Alumni Association bestows the Jabara Award upon the Academy graduate whose accomplishments demonstrate superior performance in fields directly involved with aerospace vehicles.

The James Jabara Memorial Foundation was founded by a friend of Jabara, and the Foundation constructed a statue of him at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, in 2004.

In 1950, the Air Force Association (AFA) named him "Most Distinguished Aviator of the Year" and in 1957, he was named by AFA as one of 25 U.S. men "who had done the most to promote aviation through the years."

The Kansas Aviation Museum inducted him into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.

Personal

Jabara with his wife, Nina, had four children: James William (b. 1949), Carol Ann (b. 1950), Cathy (b. 1952), and Jeanne (b. 1957).

Death and Burial

Jabara and his 16-year old daughter, Carol Anne, died in a car accident on 17 November 1966 in Delray Beach, FL, while traveling to Myrtle Beach, SC, where his family would stay while he returned to combat in Vietnam. The Jabara family was in two cars that day; Carol Anne was driving a Volkswagen with her father as a passenger in the back seat. She lost control of the car going through a construction zone, when she initially veered onto a grass median. She swerved back onto the highway but during the rapid turn, she lost control and the vehicle returned to the median where it rolled several times. Jabara sustained head injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at a Delray hospital; Carol Anne died two days later.

A memorial service was held for Jabara at Homestead AFB with a missing-man formation flyby. Jabara and his daughter were buried together in a single grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

His grandson, Lt. Nicholas Jabara, a 2001 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, was killed during pilot training in a T-37 accident on 31 January 2002.



Honoree ID: 2671   Created by: MHOH

Ribbons


Medals


Badges


Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image

Remembrances


Tributes