James Yoshikazu Nagahiro was born in 1932 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He attended Mid-Pacific Institute and after two years at the University of Hawaii, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was selected for the Aviation Cadet Program in 1953. Nagahiro served as B-52 pilot and instructor pilot with the 325th Bomb Squadron at Fairchild AFB, Washington, from August 1971 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War.
In 1972 America was in its seventh year of war against North Vietnam. President Richard Nixon called on the USAF in December to implement a new war strategy that came to be known as Operation LINEBACKER II. The operation employed U.S. air power to strategically bomb major enemy targets like radio stations, railroads, power plants, and airfields in Hanoi and Haiphong, Vietnam.