Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

James Elms Swett

  • Rank: First Lieutenant (Highest Rank: Colonel)
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Marine Fighting Squadron 221, Marine Aircraft Group 12,
    1st Marine Air Wing
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Marine Corps Reserve
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: April 7, 1943
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Solomon Islands

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 Solomon Islands area, 7 April 1943. In a daring flight to intercept a wave of 150 Japanese planes, 1st Lt. Swett unhesitatingly hurled his four-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 enemy 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.

Additional Details
  • Accredited to: San Mateo, San Mateo County, California
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: October 12, 1943

    Espirito Santo Island, New Hebrides, presented by Maj. Gen. Ralph J. Mitchell

  • Born: June 15, 1920, Seattle, King County, WA, United States
  • Died: January 18, 2009, Redding, CA, United States
  • Buried: Northern California Veteran's Cemetery, Igo, CA, United States

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