James Jabara

James “Jabby” Jabara

October 10, 1923(1923-10-10) – November 17, 1966 (aged 43)

James "Jabby" JabaraJames “Jabby” Jabara

Place of birth

Muskogee, Oklahoma

Place of death



United States of America


United States Air Force

Years of service




Commands held

337th Fighter Interceptor Squadron 31st Tactical Fighter Wing


World War II Korean War


Distinguished Service Cross Silver Star (2) Distinguished Flying Cross (7) Air Medal (25) British Distinguished Flying Cross

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James "Jabby" Jabara (October 10, 1923 – November 17, 1966) was the second-highest-scoring U.S. ace of the Korean War. He was the first American jet ace in history. Jabara is credited with 15 victories over MiG-15 jets in Korea, one below the tally of Joseph C. McConnell, although Jabara’s 1.5 victories in World War II bring his career total to 16.5 victories.

Early life

Jabara was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He was of Lebanese American descent; his parents came from Marjayoun, Lebanon. He graduated from Wichita North High School in Wichita, Kansas, in May 1942. At five feet, five inches tall,[1] he was short for a potential fighter pilot (and reportedly required to wear corrective eyewear) but this did not prevent him from immediately enlisting as an Aviation Cadet at Fort Riley, Kansas. After attending four flying schools in Texas, he received his pilot’s wings and a commission as Second Lieutenant in October 1943, at Moore Field, Texas.

World War II

During World War II, Jabara flew two tours of combat duty in Europe as a P-51 Mustang pilot, the first with the 363rd Fighter Group of the Ninth Air Force from January to October 1944, and the second with the 355th Group of the Eighth Air Force from February to December 1945. During his European combat, and known then as “the Ceegar Kid,” (for his penchant to smoke cigars) he flew 108 combat missions and was credited with the destruction of one-and-a-half enemy planes in aerial combat and four on the ground.

After World War II, Jabara attended the Tactical Air School at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and from 1947 to 1949 was stationed on Okinawa with the 53rd Fighter Group. 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 F-86 Sabre jet fighter at the New Castle (Delaware) County Airport.

Korean War

Jabara arrived in Korea on December 13, 1950 with the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, which was the first F-86 unit deployed to the Fifth Air Force to counter the threat by the Soviet MiG-15. By January 2, 1951, he had flown five combat missions in F-86s and had damaged one MiG-15 enemy jet fighter in air combat.

The F-86 Sabre Jet achieved a 10-to-1 kill ratio against the MiG-15 during the Korean War.

He achieved his first confirmed "kill" on April 3, 1951. He scored another on April 10, a third on April 12, a fourth on April 22 and his fifth and sixth on May 20, making him the first American jet ace in history. All his victories were against MiG-15s. The May 20 mission was his sixty-third Korean mission of an eventual 163; he was to have two other days when he was to down two planes and would become a triple ace. He won a Distinguished Service Cross for his heroics that day (the nation’s second highest decoration), but he would later add a silver star and oak leaf cluster to that for repeat performances. Against his wishes, he received a stateside leave for a publicity tour. The family Jabara grocery store on Murdock Street in Wichita was thronged with people for days and both he and his father John Jabara would appear on local and national radio and television. Wichita would mount one of its most-attended parades in the city’s history. Jabara was even sent on a good-will tour of his father’s homeland and gave a speech in his father’s hometown of Marjayoun. Films of his plane in Korea were on every movie newsreel, and he had offers to spend a week in Hollywood and a week in South America all expenses paid. The Cigar Institute of America sent him a case of cigars and his wife Nina received promotional packages with cigarette lighters and perfume. Other accolades at the time were a song (“That Jabara Bird”) and a ritual rewarding of his Distinguished Service Cross at a baseball game in Boston.

Jabara returned to the United States in May, 1951, for temporary assignment to Air Force Headquarters, Washington, D.C. and two months later was transferred to the Air Training Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Upon his request, he returned for another tour of duty overseas, arriving in Korea in January 1953. Now a major, on his second tour, he shot down nine more MiGs for a total of 15.

After Korea

Jabara returned to the United States in July 1953 and was assigned to Headquarters of the 32nd Air Division, Syracuse, New York. He then assumed command of the 337th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts.

By 1966, Jabara had risen to the rank of Colonel (the youngest at that rank at the time) and was to command the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Homestead AFB, Florida. Jabara was widely rumored to be on the brink of promotion to General when he and his teenage daughter Carol Anne died in a car accident in Florida on November 17, 1966, just as he was preparing to deploy the 31st Wing for his first tour in the Vietnam War.

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 wait out Jabara’s planned combat tour of Viet Nam. Carol Anne was driving a Volkswagen with her father as a passenger in Delray Beach, Florida. She lost control of the car going through a construction zone and it rolled several times. James Jabara was pronounced dead on arrival at the Delray hospital and Carol Anne died two days later. The two were buried together in a single grave at Arlington National Cemetery.[2] His grandson Lt Nicolas Jabara was killed in a T-37 accident on Jan 31, 2002.


The Colonel James Jabara Airport outside of Wichita, Kansas, was named after him. Each year, the United States Air Force Academy alumni association awards the Jabara Award, named after Colonel Jabara, to the Academy graduate whose accomplishments demonstrate superior performance in fields directly involved with aerospace vehicles.

Awards and decorations

During World War II, Colonel Jabara was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Medal with 18 Oak Leaf Clusters. While in Korea, he received the Distinguished Service Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster and an Oak leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross.


  1. Showdown: Air Combat F-86 Sabre vs. MIG-15 Military Channel documentary
  2. http://www.midwestaviation.com/about/jabara_history.cfm

External links