Jim Fuller's Life Story

(September 9, 1934 - April 20, 2000)

His Autobiography

By James M. Fuller

January 23, 1999


Sometime in the Fall of 2000, Andrea Fuller, Jim Fuller's wife, sent me this autobiography written in 1999 that she found on Jim's computer after his death. Andrea had no idea of any of the details behind or reasons for Jim writing this short autobiography. In looking at his autobiography, many details are given surrounding his life in the military and the mentioning of various historical world military conflicts. The question and answer format makes me think that Jim may have been writing an article to be used by one of his former military buddies in some type of profile of former United States Air Force career officers.

I wish to thank Andrea for giving permission to present this information about Jim. Having known Jim for many years, it is very satisfying to know the various details of his life that made him such a nice person.

- Paul Johnston - January 15, 2003.

1. What was school like when you were growing up?

I was born in a farmhouse in Simi, California on September 9, 1934. My father and Grandfather were ranchers in the Simi Valley area of California. I started school in Los Angeles, California and to the best of my recollection, I attended three different schools before my family moved to Pasadena, California where I finished Kindergarten and started grammar school. (I was around 5 years old when my family moved).

I remember playing kick ball, getting bitten on the finger by a gopher during recess (I still have the news paper article) and having difficulty learning to read. It seems like the teachers were not into tutoring after school. My Mother helped me with reading every day and it was a struggle. The house we lived in was a one bed room place and I slept on a folding cot in the dining room. I remember the neighborhood was very nice and we had a beautiful back yard with big trees. Roddy Mc Dowell lived down the street from us and I was very interested in Cowboys and Indians.

My stepfather was a machinist by trade and worked in Pasadena during the first few years of the war. He had an opportunity to get a better paying job at the U.S. Navel Ship Yard in San Pedro, California. So on August 5, 1944, another change of schools when we moved to Long Beach, California where I celebrated my tenth Birthday. This was a wonderful opportunity for our family as there were lots of new houses being built in Long Beach to accommodate the influx of workers moving into the area in search of housing and jobs. The house we moved into was a three bedroom one bath frame stucco home with a garage slab in the back yard. Access to the garage was through an alleyway and the utilities were run in the alley. The garbage and trash was collected in the alley also. This was the environment that I grew up in during my school years in Long Beach, California. Upon completion of grammar school I attended junior high school for two years and then finished High School grades 10 through 12.

I recall Junior High was very different in that we had to go to different rooms for each class. I enjoyed the shop classes that were available such as Sheet Metal Shop and Mechanical Drawing.
Algebra and Geometry were real revelations.

We had some racial problems and food fights erupted on the playgrounds a few times. I was one of the tallest kids in the school and it seemed that some of the white and black kids always wanted to pick a fight with me. I resisted for a long time but, one day enough was enough and I had a fight with one of the so-called ringleaders. Well, from that day forward through High School no one ever picked on me again. :-) I always believed that you could resolve your problems through discussions and a meeting of the minds in the majority of adverse situations. [ This statement is key to understanding Jim's friendly outgoing personality. Jim always got along with people and avoided confrontational situations. He was a leader in getting groups of friends together for happy times.]

High School was typical with many hard work, sports, and drama classes. I particularly enjoyed the shop classes I attended. I lettered in just about all the sports but swimming and diving competition was my favorite of all. Swimming lead to a life long infatuation with Snorkeling and SCUBA Diving as a hobby. I became a SCUBA Instructor and managed SCUBA Diving retail and training shop after I retired from the USAF.

I had made up my mind by my junior year that I wanted to join the USAF and fly jet fighters so I worked very hard to get good grades. I also had to work so I could have money for my interests in snorkeling, model airplanes, and my old car. I delivered newspapers, mowed lawns, set pins in bowling alleys, washed cars at the local car wash and finally got a job at a Television Store doing odd jobs and installing television sets and T.V antennas. One of the repairmen, Ron, was from England and took a liking to me. The store owner decided to open a store in Los Vegas, Nevada and Ron and I spent the summer in Vegas installing TV's during the day and seeing the shows on the Los Vegas strip at night.

During my senior year in high school I enlisted in the Air Force and was assigned to enter basic training at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas after graduation from High School in 1953. My reporting date was in September so I had all summer to prepare for my departure.

2. What did you think when Pearl Harbor was bombed? Where were you?

I was only seven years old and realized that something bad had happened. That we could be invaded by the Japanese. I was living in Pasadena, California at the time and do not remember any specific details about exactly what I was doing at the time.

3. How did the Great depression effect you and your family?

I only know that the family went through some difficult times back before I was born. It made that generation very cautious about things like job security, money, and family values, which they passed on, to my generation.

4. What kind of cars have you owned in the past?

I was 17 years old when a friend and I purchased a 1929 Model A Ford Victoria for $75.00. It was in bad shape mechanically and the paint was terrible. The Victoria was a 2-door, 4-passenger car with a partial vinyl top or whatever they used back then. Since I lived in the home of the Hot Rod that old car got torn completely apart, cleaned, repaired, hopped up, painted and put back together again, except for the body (I never did paint that car) but the under carriage sure looked good. I did a lot of work on the engine at my high school machine shop. I purchased my second and first brand new car when I graduated from USAF Jet Fighter Pilot School in 1955. It was a Ford Fairlane with a big V-8, manual transmission, and overdrive. I purchased another new ford in 1957 that gave me nothing but trouble. Then I switched to GM and I bought an Oldsmobile Cutlass, 88's and 98's for a while. I purchased a 1973 Lincoln Continental MK IV in 1976 for $3000.00 and drove it for 22 years. I am currently driving a 1993 Dodge Grand Caravan, which has a lot of room for my Radio Controlled model planes.

5. What did you think of WWII [World War Two] ?

It caused shortages of many products. No new automobiles were being produced and it seemed like you needed ration stamps in order to purchase just about everything, such as sugar, coffee, tea, cigarettes, and automobile tires. The number of ration stamps allocated each month depended on the size of your family and other factors. I remember we had food stamps and gasoline stamps and we could not travel around very much.

The WWII airplanes really got my attention and I practiced drawing them and eventually building kites, gliders, gas model U- Control planes and eventually Radio Controlled model planes. Those early days are what lead me to my decision to join the U.S. Airforce. I wanted to fly Jets!

6. What were your thoughts about the Cuban Missile Crisis? How about the Cold War in general?

I was in the Air Force and Stationed at Luke AFB, Arizona. I was an Air Combat Crew Training Instructor. Our mission was to transition new pilots current in the T-33-A, who had just completed the Under Graduate Pilot Training Program, into the front line fighters of the day (F-84 E, G, F and F-86 aircraft). Then we went on to train them in Combat Formation, Air to Ground Gunnery, Air to Air Gunnery, Air Combat Tactics, Low Level Navigation, Air to Air Refueling and Instrument Flying.

When the Cuban Crisis started, we were ordered to start flying our planes to bases in Florida. As you can see if the whistle blew, we would have been right in the middle of a war that would have been very close to the CONUS shore. It was unfortunate that President Kennedy made some bad decisions pertaining to that situation.

I lived with the Cold War all during my Air Force Career and for many years, after I retired from the U.S.A.F. Today's Air Force is a lot different because of the end of the Cold War.

7. Who were your Idols during your lifetime?

My Uncle Bob who got me interested in flying full-scale airplanes. He is 10 years older than I am and joined the Air Force before he graduated from High School. He wanted to fly fighters and went through pilot training and into the P-38. He ended up in Italy right at the end of WWII. Other idols are President Kennedy, General Chuck Yeager, and General David C. Jones to name a few.

8. Did you ever fight in WW II, Korea, Vietnam, or a combination of them? If so, did you have any interesting experiences?

I was too young for WW II and just missed the Korean War. I did get stationed in Korea for a year in Tactical Missiles shortly after the war was over and also stood Quick Strike nuclear alert in the F-100-D at Osan Air Base Korea while TDY from Itazuke, Japan for two years.

I was assigned to Forward Air Controller (FAC) duty in Vietnam during the year of 1966. I flew the 01-E, G and F for a year and put in many air strikes in support of the Korean Rock Tiger Division. I was an advisor to them on Tactical Air Support.

I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters, and the Bronze Star Medal.

The whole year was full of interesting experiences and the night I flew the mission in support of ground forces that I was awarded the DFC was very interesting.

9. What did you think when John F. Kennedy was assassinated? Where were you?

I could not believe anyone would commit such a senseless act and I was stunned. I was stationed at Luke AFB again and when I heard the news over the radio, I was rebuilding a Honda Motor Cycle in the carport at my on base house.

10. What famous people have you met in your lifetime?

I checked out then Col. David C. Jones in the F-100-D at Luke AFB, Arizona. He later became the U.S.A.F Joint Chief of Staff.

When I was stationed in Taipei, Taiwan with the U.S.A.F. Military Assistance and Advisory Group MAAG, I met General Chiang Kai-Shek and his Wife during a Christmas dinner at the Presidential Palace.

Music to Remember Jim With!

For those who knew Jim, take a few moments to reflect back on your friendship with Jim. Select some of the melodies below; close your eyes and let your mind wander and reflect back on those good times and wonderful moments you shared with Jim. Whether you were on a dive trip, a sailing trip, Sea Space, a dive class, pool session, training dive, after dive trip party, a restaurant, program presentation, a campout at Lake Travis, a visit to J. Rich Sports in Austin, or eating pizza with Jim after the final dive of a diving class, let your imagination roam the inner regions of your mind and ponder the wonderful friendship you had with Jim. It really was something special!

Tiny Bubbles

Peg of My Heart Spanish Eyes Magaritaville

Jim Fuller Memorial Page

Jim Fuller Memorial Photography Page

Andrea Fuller

© Copyright - 2003 - Paul Johnston

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