James Ely Miller was born on March 24, 1883 in Smithtown, New York. He attended the Berkley Prep School and Yale University graduating with the highest honors. In 1914, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve and in 1915 he transferred to the reserve Aero Squadron, which he organized and commanded. Upon the U.S. declaration of war on Germany in 1917, his reserve unit was activated to join the U.S. Aero Squadron at Plattsburg, New York.
In July, 1917, Captain Miller was appointed Commanding Officer at the U.S. Army 3rd Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudon, France. In 1918 he requested transfer to the front line 180th Spad Fighter/Patrol Squadron at Coincy.
When Captain Miller's unit was activated in 1917, he left a wife and daughter to serve his country.
Captain Miller was killed in action, having been shot down during a dog fight with two German fighter planes over Barrieux, France on March 9, 1918. He was buried in the Military Cemetery at Laon, France in April 1918. Two days after he was shot down, a German plane flew over Miller's airfield and dropped his personal effects on the runway. Captain Miller was the first aviator serving with an American unit killed in combat in France.
On July 20, 1921 the U.S. Army airfield at Dorp, Staten Island, New York was renamed Miller Field in memory of Captain Miller. Mary Miller, Captain Miller's mother, presented a bronze tablet to the Army on Armistice Day, November 11th 1924. The airfield has since become part of the "National Gateway Recreation Area" and the tablet is still on display in the park at the Administration Building.