Jabara, James “Jabby”, born 10-10-1923 in Muskgee, Oklahoma
of Lebanes descent; his father, John, and mother came from Marjayoun, a town in Southern 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,
who died age 82 on 23-07-1973 in Zürich, Switzerland 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, Kansas
in May 1942. Standing five feet, five inches (165 cm) tall, Jabara was short for a potential fighter pilot, and was reportedly required to wear corrective eye wear, but this did not prevent him from immediately enlisting as an aviation cadet of the United States Army Air Corps
at Fort Riley, Kansas. 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, Texas in October 1943. Jabara with his wife, Nina, had four children: James William (born 1949), Carol Ann (born 1950), Cathy (born 1952), and Jeanne (born 1957). 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. “The Ceegar Kid” His first tour lasted from January to October 1944 with the 363rd
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.”The Ceegar Kid” “The Ceegar Kid” 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 bail out while the aircraft were destroyed. 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 United States as an instructor for other pilots. 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 aircraft in aerial combat, the half considered shared with another pilot and four on the ground. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster for his 1.5 victories as well as an Air Medal with 18 Oak Leaf Clusters. 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, Florida.
From 1947 to 1949 he was stationed on Okinawa with the 53rd
. 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 returned to the United States
and was assigned as a flight commander, now at the rank of captain, 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. During the Korea war Jabara voluntarily transferred to the 335th
Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, here with Capt Iven C. Kincheloe, Jr.
. His 15 victories gave him the title of “triple ace”, and his Korean War victories were all against MiG-15s. He received a Silver Star, an Oak Leaf Cluster for his Distinguished Service Cross, as well as another Distinguished Flying Cross for his additional air victories.
Death and burial ground of Jabara, James “Jabby”.
While traveling to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where his family would stay while he returned to combat in Vietnam, Jabara and his 16-year old daughter Carol Anne died in a car accident in Delray Beach, Florida on 17-11-1966. The Jabara family were in two cars that day, on their way to a new home in South Carolina where his wife Nina and their children—James Jr., Carol Anne, Jeanne, and Cathy—would reside during Jabara’s combat tour. Carol Anne was driving a Volkswagen (see Porsche
A memorial service was held for Jabara at Homestead Air Force Base with a missing man formation fly-by. Jabara and his daughter were buried together in a single grave at Arlington National Cemetery. His grandson Lieutenant Nicholas James Jabara,
a 2001 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, was killed during pilot training in a T-37 accident on 31-01-2002, age 22.