COLONEL JAMES SWETT, UNITED STATES MARINE
A MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT, WAS LAID TO REST WITH
HONORS ON FRIDAY, JAN 23, 2009 AT NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
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Dogfights: James Swett - Wildcat Ace - YouTube video
Medal of Honor recipient James Swett of Redding
dies at 88
By Jim Schultz (Contact)
Originally published 08:40 a.m., January 21, 2009
Updated 08:40 a.m., January 21, 2009
Following From Redding.com
James Elms Swett of Redding once said that notoriety can at times be a
He got pulled over more times than he could remember by inquisitive
Patrol officers due to the distinctive license plate on his car.
But it had its perks, too.
He rarely got a traffic ticket, and had a lot of autographed photographs
a number of U.S. presidents.
Swett, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II for shooting
seven Japanese bombers within 15 minutes, died Sunday at Mercy Medical
in Redding after a long illness. He was 88.
Swett, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor due to his
actions during World War II, never thought of himself as a hero.
But a lot of people certainly did.
Randy Clement, a Vietnam War veteran and past commander of the
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 7705 in Weaverville, said Swett was a
hero in every sense of the word.
Clement said that Swett, whom he described as a humble man who radiated
“quiet heroism,” volunteered countless hours to the community and was
a guest at that community’s annual Little Baseball opening day
“There was not a year I can remember that he missed,” he said.
“His death is a true loss.”
Swett, who was one of two Medal of Honor recipients in the north state,
was a Seattle native who grew up in the San Mateo region.
He moved to Redding in 2007 after living more than 20 years in tiny
A former U.S. Marine Corps pilot, Swett, who also was awarded two Purple
six Distinguished Flying Cross medals and 21 Air Medals, has said that
of combat over the Florida group of the Solomon Islands during World War
forever changed his life.
It was on April 7, 1943, when the 22-year-old 1st lieutenant led his
first combat mission.
It was that mission that resulted in him being awarded the Medal of
According to the official citation that accompanies the Medal of Honor
he earned that day, Swett was quickly caught up in an air-to-air fight
wave of 150 Japanese planes.
“1st Lt. Swett unhesitatingly hurled his four-plane division into action
formation of 15 enemy bombers and personally exploded three hostile
midair with accurate and deadly fire during his dive,” the citation
separated from his division while clearing the heavy concentration of
fire, he boldly attacked six enemy bombers, engaged the first four in
unaided, shot down all in flames.”
With a hole in one of his wings and his ammunition nearly exhausted,
Swett pursued a fifth bomber. The rear gunner fired, shattering Swett’s
windshield. Swett shot and killed him with his remaining ammunition,
the bomber on fire.
The engine to his F-4F Wildcat gave out, and he crash-landed in Tulagi
With a nose broken on impact, he climbed out of the sinking cockpit,
floated to the
surface and was rescued by a Coast Guard picket boat.
“God was with me in that cockpit,” Swett said in a 1996 Record
Over the course of his World War II service, Swett was credited with
15 downed enemy planes and earned eight Distinguished Flying Crosses,
Hearts and a score of Air Medals.
Swett, who also saw action at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, was again shot down
uly 1943 near New Guinea and was forced to spend four days in a rubber
on chocolate bars and coconuts, until he was finally rescued by natives.
After leaving active duty in the Marines in 1950, he joined the
reserves, where he
became a colonel before retiring in 1970.
He also worked in his father’s company in San Francisco, making marine
and turbines. In 1960, after his father’s death, Swett took over the
ran it for 23 years.
He moved to Trinity County with his wife, Loie, in 1983 from Los Altos.
She died in 1999 at the age of 75, and Swett remarried in 2007.
In 1999, Swett was one of then 98 Medal of Honor recipients on hand for
dedication of a $2.5 million memorial in Indianapolis honoring America’s
greatest war heroes.
His name, etched in one of 27 huge glass walls, joined those of such
Medal of Honor recipients as Audie Murphy, Alvin York and Eddie
In 2006, Swett’s Medal of Honor heroics were recreated using computer
for The History Channel series, “Dogfights.” Swett himself provided
He is survived by his wife, Verna, of Redding; two sons, James Jr. of
area and John of Redwood City, three grandchildren and four
Jim Schultz can be reached at 225-8223 or at
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