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1st Lt. James E. Swett
U.S. Marine Corps, VMF-221

Click For EnlargementBackground
James Elms Swett was born on June 15, 1920 in Seattle, Washington. After attending junior college in San Mateo, CA he joined the USMCR. On March 16, 1943 Swett arrived on Guadalcanal with squadron VMF-221.

On April 7, 1943, Swett took off piloting F4F Wildcat 12084 on a mission to intercept D3A Val dive bombers attacking Tulagi. He was credited with seven by the USMC. Later, Swett claimed: “Actually I shot down eight of those Japanese dive bombers,” he told The Oregonian. “I’m still mad at the Marine Corps for confirming only seven.”

Medal of Honor (April 7, 1943)
Medal of HonorCitation: "For extraordinary heroism and personal valor above and beyond the call of duty, as division leader of Marine Fighting Squadron 221 with Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, in action against enemy Japanese aerial forces in the Solomons Islands area, 7 April 1943. In a daring flight to intercept a wave of 150 Japanese planes, 1st Lt. Swett unhesitatingly hurled his 4-plane division into action against a formation of 15 enemy bombers and personally exploded three hostile planes in midair with accurate and deadly fire during his dive. Although separated from his division while clearing the heavy concentration of antiaircraft fire, he boldly attacked six enemy bombers, engaged the first four in turn and, unaided, shot down all in flames. Exhausting his ammunition as he closed the fifth Japanese bomber, he relentlessly drove his attack against terrific opposition which partially disabled his engine, shattered the windscreen and slashed his face. In spite of this, he brought his battered plane down with skillful precision in the water off Tulagi without further injury. The superb airmanship and tenacious fighting spirit which enabled 1st Lt. Swett to destroy seven enemy bombers in a single flight were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service."

Later War Service
He later flew from the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill and carried out strikes supporting the Iwo Jima and Okinawa invasions in 1945. By the end of the war, he had flown 103 missions, was credited with 16 Japanese planes and sharing in the destruction of one plus nine probables. Swett earned: the Medal of Honor, eight Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Air Medal and two Purple Hearts.

Until 1950, Swett remained on active duty. In 1960, he worked for his father's industrial machinery business in San Francisco until he retired in 1983. In 1970, he retired from the Marine Corps reserve as a Colonel.

Swett passed away on January 18, 2009 in Redding, CA. He is buried at Northern California Veterans Cemetery at section 4, site 329.

USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List - April 1943
X Attack of I-Operation: The Anti-shipping Mission to the Guadalcanal-Tulagi Area on April 7, 1943 by Richard Dunn pages 2, 16, 32, 36, 43-44, 47-48
FindAGrave - James Elms Swett (phtoto, grave photo)


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