John James Knudsen was born in Great Falls, Montana, in 1922. A child of a Dutch immigrant father and an Irish immigrant mother, he was six years old when the Great Depression began. In 1940, he studied art at Woodbury College in Los Angeles, and for the last nine months of college he worked the graveyard shift at Lockheed, bucking rivets on P-38 fighter planes and Hudson bombers. Inspired by Pearl Harbor, he decided to join the service. This is a candid story of how pilots were trained in the early Army Air Corps.
Knudsen was initially rejected by the navy because of an enlarged heart muscle but managed to enter service with the Army Air Corps. After enduring and succeeding in a grueling series of flight training camps and schools throughout the country, he was sent to the B-17 Bomber Transition School in Columbus, Ohio, and was informed he was in line to be a first pilot on a B-29 and bomb Japan. By the time he accrued the 250 hours required for the mission, the Japanese had surrendered.
He returned home to Montana, but finding no work to utilize his art training, he moved back to Los Angeles where he found work with an advertising agency. Knudsen went on to become a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist, first with the weekly Catholic newspaper Tidings, and later with the San Diego Tribune. A member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists since the 1960s, he was selected four times for inclusion in Pelican's Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year series.
Knudsen has won twenty-three national awards from Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, “America's School for Citizenship Education,” and he is a member of his local chapter of Silver Wings Fraternity, a group of pilots who have soloed over twenty-five years.
In 1973, Knudsen and his wife received Papal Orders and were named Knight and Dame Grand Cross. They have eight children and twelve grandchildren, and in 2007, celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary. They live in San Diego, California.