Jim Swett was born on June 15, 1920, in Seattle, Washington. He received his private pilot's license through the Civilian Pilot Training Program before enlisting in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Navy on August 26, 1941. Swett was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Marine Corps and designated a Naval Aviator on April 16, 1942, and then went through additional training at MCAS Quantico, Virginia, and NAS San Diego, California, from April to December 1942. Lt Swett next joined VMF-221, deploying to Guadalcanal in March 1943, and was credited with the destruction of 14.5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat before returning to the U.S. in January 1944. From January 1944 to January 1945, Capt Swett served with VMF-221 at Santa Barbara, California, and then returned to combat at Okinawa flying off the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) from January to June 1945. During this time, he was credited with 1 more air victory, bringing his total in World War II to 15.5 destroyed in aerial combat plus 4 probables and a shared damaged aircraft. After returning to the U.S. he served with VMF-221 at MCAS El Toro, California, until leaving active duty on December 3, 1945. Col Swett served in the Marine Corps Reserve from December 4, 1945, until his retirement on July 1, 1970. Jim Swett died on January 18, 2009, and was buried at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery in Igo, California.
His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
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 3 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 6 enemy bombers, engaged the first 4 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 7 enemy bombers in a single flight were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.