James Swett graduated at the top of his class from flight school. After graduation, he thought he was headed for the Navy, but a colonel from the Marine Corps persuaded him to fly for the Marines instead.
After becoming a Marine officer, Swett was stationed on the island of Guadalcanal. While there, he logged a massive 450 hours of pre-war flight time. Unbeknownst to the men stationed on the island, a Japanese fleet was preparing to attack the morning of April 7, 1943.
Swett flew two patrols around the island but saw nothing. However, the third patrol flight went very differently. Swett has into that 150 enemy planes were heading his way, and he planned on defending his position.
When he was finally faced with the Japanese planes, he shot down a few of them, but his starboard wing took a couple of rounds, and he headed back to base. He noticed that some of the dive bombers were following him.
Ditching The Enemy
After a couple of short bursts, he shot them down. His very damaged plane crashed into the ocean as he was trying to reach the island.
Even though he was a little soggy, the pilot had a glorious first day of battle, bringing down seven enemy planes. Then, Swett was grabbed up by a Coast Guard boat.
Overall, during the war, Swett shot down 15 1/2 enemy fighter planes. He was presented with the Medal of Honor on October 10, 1943.