James was born in Cessnock, New South Wales on the 31st August 1925 and enlisted in the RAAF on the 11th September 1943 when he was only eighteen. After training, he spent a month with 457 Squadron before being transferred out to 77 Squadron. John was discharged from 77 Squadron on the 9th April 1946.
There is very little public information about James, but as he was with 77 Squadron in 1944 until he was discharged, he would have probably have been with the Squadron when the Americans landed on Los Negros, north-eastern Manus Island, on the 29th February 1944. It was there that they planned to establish air operations on the islands with 76, 77, and 79 Squadrons providing fighter support. Resistance was heavy and 77 Squadron’s ground party, arriving by landing craft seven days later, walked straight into the front line. The squadron’s first Kittyhawks flew in six days later. Their main tasks was to cover supply shipping, but strikes were made supporting the Americans on Manus Island.
On the 14th September 1944, the Squadron transferred to 81 Wing, arriving at Kamiri airstrip, on Noemfoor, an island off the northern coast of West Papua. There, the Squadron bombed enemy positions on the Vogelkop Peninsula throughout October 1944. On the 13th April 1945, the Squadron arrived on Morotai, one of the most northern Indoneasian islands. There, 81 Wing took part in the invasion of Labuan Island and Brunei, and on the 3rd July 1945 the Squadron attacked Keningau and Sapong, North Borneo.
The end of the war in September 1945 did not mean 77 Squadron was going home. It went instead to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, equipped with F-51D Mustangs, and remained there for the next four years. It is not known if James went to Japan even though he was not discharged until April 1946.
Phil Listemann (Author of the History of 457 Squadron)
Update by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association