Medal of Honor Citation

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.

Colonel Swett passed away from congestive heart failure on 18 January 2009 at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, at the age of 88.  He was laid to rest at Northern California Veterans Cemetery in Igo, California.

World War II Medal of Honor

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