James enlisted in the US Army on November 16th, 1942 at Camp Shelby, MS at age 25. He was in the 85th Infantry division, 337th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, B Company. The 85th division was nicknamed the “Custer Division” after George Armstrong Custer, a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars. The division participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers in April 1943 and the Desert Training Center California Maneuvers in June 1943. In July 1943, the Regiment was organized with 3,256 Officers and enlisted men and continued training until mid 1944.