James John Vaughan was born in Springfield, Illinois, 12 June 1910, son of Thomas and Julia Melissa (Tucker) Vaughan. He attended Springfield High School and entered the US Navy as a Seaman on 7 August 1927. During his enlisted service he had sea duty on board the battleship Idaho, and attended the Naval Academy preparatory Course at the Naval Training Station, San Diego, California, from December 1928 to June 1929. He was honorably discharged to enter the US Naval Academy on appointment at large. Graduated and commissioned Ensign on 1 June 1933, he subsequently attained the rank of Captain 1 July 1952 and then Rear Admiral.
Upon detachment from the Academy in June 1933, he was assigned to USS Arizona, and served as a junior officer in that battleship until January 1935. Ordered to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, he completed flight training on 12 April 1937, having been designated Naval Aviator a month before. He joined Scouting Squadron 3, based on USS Saratoga, and after a year’s service, reported in June 1938 as a naval aviator on board USS Salt Lake City. From September 1940 until April 1942, shortly after the outbreak of World War II, he had successive service in Patrol Squadrons 11 and 23. His squadron was based at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked the Fleet there on 7 December 1941.
From April until September 1942 he served as Air Officer of USS Wright, seaplane tender, and for four months thereafter he was Air Controller for the Hawaiian Sea Frontier. In January 1943 he was transferred to the Western Sea Frontier, to serve until June 1944 as Deputy Air Task Group Commander. When detached he assumed command of USS Suisun, commanding her throughout the remaining period of the war. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, with Combat “V”, and the following citation:
“For meritorious service as Commanding Officer of the SUISUN during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Kerama Reto Area from April 25 to June 30, 1945…Commander Vaughan rendered valuable service toward the establishment and maintenance of this vital Seaplane Base under extremely difficult operating conditions and despite hazards and interruptions caused by frequent hostile air attacks. Under his capable leadership, the SUISUN assisted in tending Air-Sea Rescue Squadrons THREE and FOUR and maintained squadron availability at a maximum when the Air-Sea Rescue facilities were taxed to their utmost to meet the need for their services.”
He next had shore duty as Executive Officer of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Unit at the University of California at Los Angeles. While there he was made an honorary member of Scabbard and Blade. From July 1948 to July 1950 he served as Executive Officer of the Fleet Airborne Electronics Training Unit, Pacific, at San Diego, California. Reporting next to the Navy Department, Washington, DC, he served until July 1952 as Head of the Aviation Technical Training Section, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
During the period August 1952 to June 1953 he was a student at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and upon completion of the course in Strategy and Tactics, he reported as Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander Fleet Air, Quonset. Under orders of 29 December 1954, he reported for duty as Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station, Anacostia, DC.
In addition to the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, Captain Vaughan had the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four engagement stars; American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; and the National Defense Service Medal.