The son of James and Laura Knowles, James Knowles of was one of two aces who attended Phillips Academy, Andover. He was a student at Harvard University (class of 1918) when the United States entered the war. He enlisted in the United States Signal Corps, Aviation Section, on 19 May 1917 and received preliminary training at the School of Military Aeronautics at Ohio State University. Sailing for France on 23 July 1917, he completed flight training at Tours and Issoudun before being promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 20 November 1917. Following gunnery school at Cazaux in March 1918, Knowles—like Harold Buckley, the other Andover ace—was assigned to the 95th Aero Squadron on 27 June 1918. Flying the SPAD XIII he scored his first victory on 25 July 1918, shooting down a Fokker D.VII near Beuvardes. By the end of the war he had flown 96 sorties and scored four more victories to become one of the highest scoring aces in his squadron. He was transferred to Air Service Headquarters at Tours on 15 January 1919 before he returned to the United States on 13 March 1919. Knowles was discharged from the army on 23 March 1919 and accepted a commission as Captain with the Air Service Officers' Reserve Corps on 8 December 1919. In 1920 he graduated from Harvard.
Boston Herald Traveler, Boston, Massachusetts, Tuesday, 23 Feb 1971, page B27
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to James Knowles, Jr., First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Montfaucon, France, October 9, 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the enemy's lines First Lieutenant Knowles observed three enemy Fokkers attacking one of our balloons. He unhesitatingly attacked, and in a bitter combat that lasted for five minutes he succeeded in bringing one of the enemy planes down in flames and driving off the others.
General Orders No. 127, W.D., 1918
French Croix de Guerre
An excellent pursuit pilot, very aggressive and never losing an opportunity to attack the enemy. On 25 July 1918, he brought down an enemy two-seater which was protected by six scouts.
general order of the Army
25 Jul 1918
26 Jul 1918
Rumpler C 1
04 Oct 1918
09 Oct 1918
08 Nov 1918
Shared with Lt G W Puryear, Lt C S Gill, Lt Waldo H Heinrichs, Lt Sumner Sewall