He was born in Utah on October 1, 1924. He enlisted in the aviation cadet program upon reaching 18. James graduated from pilot training in April 1944 at 19. He then graduated from B-24 transition and proceeded to form a crew at Tonopah AAF, NV. He was a B-24 aircraft commander at age 19, flying combat missions with the 830th Bomb Squadron, 485th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force in Italy beginning in the fall of 1944. Jim flew a war-weary B-24 back to the States after the war.
James was discharged in November 1945 as a First Lieutenant. He entered college and graduated in 1950. He was recalled to active duty in March 1951 and served as a Finance Officer and pilot for 7 years in Germany, France, England, Wisconsin and California. He flew C-47s, C-119s, C-45s and T-33s during this period. In 1959, he was assigned to SAC as a KC-97 aircraft commander at Dow AFB ME. In 1963, he was transferred to SAC Headquarters to fly VC-97s around the country and many overseas destinations. In 1965, James was transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany to fly “Spooky” C-97s (Spy Missions) for 3 years.
Receiving orders for AC-119 gunship training, James attended C-119 transition at Clinton County and then gunnery school at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio. He trained in the AC-119K model, but was sent to the 17th SOS as a G-pilot replacement, when the Reserve pilots were rotated back to the States. He served at Nha Trang and Phan Rang as an Aircraft Commander and Instructor Pilot in addition to serving as OL and Squadron operations officer. James rotated back to the states in April 1970 and reported to his next assignment as a C-141 pilot and instructor pilot and operations officer at McChord AFB.
James Roach retired from the Air Force in September 1975, having accumulated 10,000 flying hours in a variety of aircraft, and returned to college, earning a master’s degree. He worked for the State of Washington for 6 years and then retired from all work. In 1987, he moved to Las Vegas where he and his wife of 47 years have since lived. James has one daughter.