Villamor was one of seven children. He studied commerce at De La Salle College (now DLSU-Manila) in Manila, hoping to pursue a business career.
During summer, he and his family went to Baguio and stayed in one of the government houses on Hogan’s Alley, which are now assigned to Justice of Court of Appeals, just below Cabinet Hill along Leonard Wood Road. One of his playments during this time was Roberto Lim, son of Brigadier General Vicente Lim.
Jess (as one of his friends would call him), at the age of 14 to 15, was already an aviation bug. He was worried that because of his short height, he wouldn’t pass the physical exam. He learned how to fly in the civilian flying school in Grace Park that was located next to La Loma cemetery. Roberto Lim took his first airpline ride with Jess in a Stearman plane. He also signed Roberto Lim’s first civilian license.
He joined the Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) Flying School in 1936 and was sent to the United States for training, and after three years, began flying B-17’s as part of the US Air Force’s Strategic Bombing Squadron
Upon his return to the Philippines, Villamor was assigned to lead the 6th Pursuit Squadron (now 6th Tactical Fighter Squadron) shortly before the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in December 1941. In the skies above Zablan and Batangas Fields, against Japanese Zeros, his squadron of P-26 fighters engaged the enemy. He was twice cited by the United States Army for bravery, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross for actions on December 10, 1941 and an Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a second award of the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for actions on December 12, 1941, making him the only Filipino to receive the DSC twice.
After his squadron was destroyed, Villamor continued his war against the Japanese as an intelligence officer. On December 27, 1942 Villamor was part of a team inserted by the submarine USS Gudgeon (SS-211) into the Philippines. Establishing a chain of direct communication from the Philippines with General Douglas MacArthur in Australia, he coordinated the activities of various guerrilla movements in Luzon, Mindanao and the Visayas. Villamor acted as the “clearing house” for information, which helped the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) to map out a strategy to liberate the Philippines.
For his bravery as a pilot and ingenuity as an intelligence officer, President Ramón Magsaysay awarded Lieutenant Col. Villamor the Medal of Valor, the highest Philippine military bravery decoration, on January 21, 1954. The Philippine Air Force’s principal facility in Metro Manila which was first known as Nichols Field then later Nichols Air Base was renamed Col. Jesús Villamor Air Base in his honor.