James enlisted on 19 May 1942 as a Sapper in 65th Australian Anti Aircraft Company with service No V157280. He transferred to the 2nd AIF on 30 Sept 1942 and after several appointments embarked for Milne Bay, New Guinea aboard "DUNTROON" on 27 Sept 1943. He transferred to 2/153rd Australian General Transport Company on 3 Jan 1944 and embarked from Lae, New Guinea aboard "DUNTROON" for Australia on 20 May 1944.
After training he joined the unit on 19 Nov 1944 and embarked for New Britain aboard “TAROONA” on 9 Apr 1945 with the unit as a Trooper. James left the unit and embarked from Jacquinot Bay, New Britain for Australia on 15 Sept 1945 aboard "TAROONA". He joined 140th Australian General Transport Company on 25 Oct 1945 and after serving with other transport units, he was discharged on 30 Sept 1946.
For his service during the war he was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal and Australian Service Medal 1939-45.