Major (Ret.) James Brooks attended pilot training in Texas as an Army Air Corps Cadet in 1942. Upon graduation, he was selected to fly fighter aircraft. “I always knew I wanted to fly fighters, but I will tell you, the bravest pilots flew bombers back then,” Brooks said. On May 18, 1944, while escorting bombers over Ploesti, Romania, he scored his first aerial victory, downing a Romanian G-50 fighter. Brooks finished his combat tour with 55 missions and 280 combat hours. In total, he scored 13.5 victories and became the leading Ace of the 307th FS. Following World War II, he flew F-86s during the Korean War and participated in the first big, all jet air battle over the Yalu River on Dec. 22, 1950. 12 MiGs and four Sabers were involved.
After the Korean War, Brooks became an engineering test pilot, logging test flights in the F-86, the B-45, the XF-100 and the F-86 rocket augmentation program. “I am very lucky,” he said. “I was part of the supersonic ‘50s at Edwards Air Force Base. Everything we have today came from there. I’m glad to have been a part of it."