James Ferris was born in St. Helens, Lancashire, England, on November 16, 1919, so of James V. Ferris and Mrs. (Elizabeth Mooney) Ferris. From 1939 to 1941 he attended Elon College, North Carolina, where he was President of the Freshman and Sophomore Class. On October 26, 1941 he enlisted in the US Naval Reserve and later was appointed Aviation Cadet. After flight training, he was designated Naval Aviator and commissioned Ensign on August 5, 1942. He subsequently advanced in rank to that of Rear Admiral, to date from July 1, 1970, having transferred from the U.S. Naval Reserve to the Regular Navy on November 24, 1944.
After receiving his “Wings” in 1942 he was assigned as a Fighter Pilot with fighting squadron Twelve, deployed in the Western Pacific. For successfully completing thirty missions during the period September 25, 1943 to May 17, 1944, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and Gold Stars in lieu of the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Air Medal. Detached from Fighting Squadron Twelve in August 1944, he served as a Fighter Plane/Fighter Bombing Plane Instructor at the Naval Air Advanced Training Command, Corpus Christi, Texas, and from September 1946 to April 1947 had instruction at the Combat Information Center School.
The following month he joined USS Tarawa (CV-40) as Combat Information Center Officer, and in November 1948 returned to the Combat Information Center School to serve as an Instructor until May 1950. In July, that year, he reported as Air Plans Officer on the Staff of Commander Amphibious Group Three, and in July 1951 became Executive Officer of Fighter Squadron One Hundred Twelve, deployed to Korea. For outstanding service while attached to that squadron, he was the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” and a Gold Star in lieu of the Sixth Air Medal.
From November 1952 to September 1954 he had duty in the Bureau of Naval Weapons, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., then attended the General Line School, Newport, Rhode Island. In May 1955 he became Executive Officer of Fighter Squadron Eighty-Four, and in July, that year, transferred in a similar capacity to Attack Squadron Sixty Six. He assumed command of Fighter Squadron Thirty-Three in July 1956 and in February 1958 was assigned six months’ fighter plane training on the Staff of the Commander Naval Air Force, Atlantic.
He had instruction at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Washington, DC, from August 1958 to June 1959, then reported for duty in the Air Combat Unit Branch, Bureau of Naval Personnel, navy Department, Washington, DC. In July 1960 he was designated Commander Carrier Air Group Eight, and in November 1961 rejoined the Staff of the Commander Naval Air Force, Atlantic, to serve as Attack carrier Group Training Officer. From May 1963 to June 1965 he was Commander Replacement Carrier Air Group Four, and the following month assumed command of USS Truckee (AO-147).
Detached from command of the oiler in August 1966, he was assigned as Operations Officer on the Staff of Commander Carrier Division Four, and in September 1967 transferred to the Staff of Commander Naval Air, Alameda. He had training on the Staff of Commander Naval Air Force, Pacific Fleet from December 1967 to February 1968, when he assumed command of USS Coral Sea (CVA-43). “For exceptionally meritorious conduct…. As Commander Task Group 77.6, Commander Task Unit 77.6.1 and Commanding Officer USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) from September 9, 1968 to March 31, 1969…” he was awarded the Legion of Merit. He is also entitled to the Ribbon for, a facsimile of the Navy Unit Commendation awarded that attack aircraft carrier for meritorious service in the Southeast Asia area.
Detached from the Coral Sea in April 1969, he then reported for instruction at California State College at Hayward. In June 1969 he became Commander Fleet Air, Alameda, with headquarters at the Naval Air Station, Alameda, California and for his “…. Formulation and execution of an effective program for inspecting, assessing, and improving the readiness and training posture of fleet Air Alameda units…” he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Legion of Merit. In February 1971 he assumed command of Carrier Division Nine and in July of that year was transferred to command of Carrier Division Three. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and cited in part as follows:
“ For meritorious service from December 1971 to March 1972 while serving as Commander carrier Division Three, Commander Task Group Seventy-Seven point Six and for designated periods as Commander Task Group Seventy-Seven point Zero during combat operations against enemy forces in Southeast Asia…”
In April 1972 he became Chief of Naval Air Training, headquartered at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida (the headquarters was transferred on July 1, 1972 to the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas. “For exceptionally meritorious conduct…” in that capacity, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Third Legion of Merit. “… In the face of decreasing resources, Rear Admiral Ferris’ exceptional managerial skills and expertise were instrumental in improving and increasing the output of Naval Aviators and Naval Flight officer. During May and June 1974, prior to his retirement on July 1, he was temporarily assigned to Patrol Wings, Pacific.
In addition to the Legion of Merit with two Gold Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal with five Gold Stars, the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”, and the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Rear Admiral Ferris has the American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with silver star (five engagements); World War II Victory Medal; China Service Medal; National Defense Medal with bronze star; Korean Service Medal with three bronze Stars; United Nations Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal with one star, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea). He also has the Gallantry Cross and the National Order of Vietnam awarded by the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device.