The Marine Corps Medal of Honor Recipients

Featuring Marine Medal of Honor Recipients From WWII-Korea-Viet Nam And Iraqi Freedom

First Lieutenant
United States Marine Corps Reserve
James Swett



First Lieutenant James E. Swett
United States Marine Corps Reserve

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as a Division Leader in Marine Fighter Squadron TWO TWENTY-ONE in action against enemy Japanese aerial forces in the Solomon Islands Area, April 7, 1943. In a daring flight to intercept a wave of 150 Japanese planes, First Lieutenant Swett unhesitatingly hurled hi four-plane division into action against a formation of fifteen enemy bombers and during his dive personally exploded three hostile planes in mid-air with accurate and deadly fire. Although separated from his division while clearing the heavy concentration of anti-aircraft fire, he boldly attacked six enemy bombers, engaged the first four in turn, and unaided, shot them down in flames. Exhausting his ammunition as the 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 First Lieutenant Swett to destroy seven enemy bombers in a single flight were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
President of the United States

Colonel James Elms Swett, of San Mateo, California, earned the Medal of Honor in World War II for shooting down seven Japanese bombers within 15 minutes.

This remarkable feat took place on 7 April 1943 in the Guadalcanal area, and made the then 22-year-old Marine aviator an ace on his first combat flight. During the air battle, he was shot down himself and rescued from the water.

Subsequently he downed a total of 15 ½ enemy aircraft during the war, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and four Air Medals.

Born 15 June 1920 in Seattle, Washington, James E. Swett graduated from the San Mateo (California) High School and attended San Mateo Junior College before enlisting in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a seaman second class on 26 August 1941.

He was appointed an aviation cadet the following October and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve on 1 April 1942, after flight training in Corpus Christi, Texas.

He took part in action in the South Pacific from early 1943 until January 1944. After a year's duty in the United States, he returned overseas in January 1945, and participated in combat operations at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

He was relieved of active duty in November 1945 with the rank of major, and rose to the rank of colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve.

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