General Joseph May Swing – Intermission Story (30)

Major General Joseph Swing

As the intermission period closes, it is only fitting that I introduce the man who lead the 11th Airborne Division.  Many called him “Uncle Joe”, but on the back of this photograph, Smitty wrote “My General.”

“A hero is a man noted for his feats of courage or nobility of purpose—especially one who has risked his life; a person prominent in some field, period, or cause by reason of his special achievements or contributions; a person of distinguished valor or fortitude; and a central personage taking an admirable part in any remarkable action or event; hence, a person regarded as a model.”

Joseph May Swing was born on 28 February 1894 in Jersey City and went to the public schools there, graduating in 1911 and entered West Point Military Academy directly.  He graduated 38th in the class of the star-studded class of 1915, famously known as “The Class the Stars Fell On.”

The 5-star generals were Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley.  The four-star (“full”) Generals in the class of 1915 were James Van Fleet and Joseph T. McNarney. The three-star (Lieutenant Generals) Generals were Henry Aurand, Hubert R. Harmon, Stafford LeRoy Irwin, Thomas B. Larkin, John W. Leonard, George E. Stratemeyer, and Joseph M. Swing. This view was taken facing south around noon on May 3, 1915.

In 1916 Lieutenant Swing was part of the punitive expedition to Mexico against Francisco Villa under the leadership of General John J. Pershing. In 1917, shortly after the US entered the war in Europe, Major Swing joined the artillery of the 1st Division in France. When he returned to the US in 1918, he became an aide-de-camp to the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Peyton C. March. On 8 July 1918, he married Josephine Mary March, the daughter of General March. Later that year, he joined the 19th Field Artillery at Fort Myer, Virginia, and in 1921 sailed for Hawaii to command the 1st Battalion of the 11th Field Artillery at Schofield Barracks.

In 1925, he returned to the States and assumed command of the 9th Field Artillery at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.  He graduated with honors from the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, and in 1927 he graduated from the Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. For the next four years, he was on duty in the Office of the Chief of Field Artillery in Washington, DC, and in 1933 he became chief of its war plans section. In 1935, he graduated from the Army War College in Washington and then joined the 6th Field Artillery at Fort Hoyle, Maryland.

Next, he went to Fort Sam Houston where he was the chief of staff of the 2d Division from 1938 to 1940. Later, he commanded the 82d Horse Artillery Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Bliss, Texas and then commanded its division artillery. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1941 and at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, organized the division artillery of the 82d Division, a move which was to project him into the brand new field of “airborne.”  In Camp Claiborne, General Omar Bradley was the 82d Division commander. General Ridgway was the assistant division commander, and Colonel Maxwell D. Taylor was the chief of staff.

General Joseph M. Swing

In February of 1943, as a newly promoted major general, General Swing was assigned the task of activating the 11th Airborne Division at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, the Army’s third airborne division. Thus began for General Swing a tenure of service which was unique then and still remains a record: division commander of one division for five years, during which he activated the division, trained it, and commanded it in combat and during its subsequent occupation of Japan. During this period, General Swing and the 11th Airborne Division became synonymous; the man was the division and the division was the man.

General Swing made his mark on the Army and on the thousands of men who passed through the 11th Airborne Division in a way which those of us who were fortunate enough to serve with and have known him will never forget. His subordinates and superiors have described General Swing with numerous adjectives: forceful, energetic, courageous, self-disciplined, purposeful, farsighted, innovative, just, sentimental, short-tempered, forgiving, sincere, considerate, demanding—and with it all, handsome, erect, prematurely gray, with a lean, tanned face from which steely-blue eyes focused with incredible sharpness either to find a mistake or an accomplishment of a subordinate. General Swing fitted all of those descriptive adjectives to one degree or another; illustrations to exemplify each trait abound, particularly in the lore of the 11th Airborne Division. And as the years go by and as the men of the 11th gather at reunions, the stories about the “old man” increase and take on a sharper and more pungent flavor.

Leyte, Gen. Swing and staff on Mt.Manarawat

There is no doubt that General Swing was demanding in training, insisting on excellence, and setting and requiring the highest of standards for the 11th Airborne Division so that when it entered combat, after months of grueling training in Camp MacKall, Camp Polk, and New Guinea, the division was ready to take on the Japanese in the mud and rain across the uncharted central mountains of Leyte. Early in its combat career, it was ready to thwart a Japanese parachute attack on the division command post and nearby San Pablo airfield at Burauen, Leyte.

General Swing demonstrated his courage and vitality on that occasion by personally leading a Civil War-like attack across the airstrip with engineers, supply troops, and a glider field artillery battalion armed with carbines and rifles against the dug-in Japanese paratroopers who had had the audacity to attack the 11th Airborne from the air. In short order, the Japanese paratroopers, the elite Katori Shimpei of the Japanese forces, were routed, and the San Pablo airfield was back in the hands of the 11th Airborne Division.

_____ Condensed from a biographical article written by Edward Michael Flanagan, Jr., Lt.General, Retired

also, “The Gettysburg Daily, Wikipedia and Smitty’s scrapbook.

And this is where we left off the day by day and monthly island-hopping offense of the Pacific War.  You will be hearing often of General Swing, you might even get to admire him almost as much as Smitty did.

Click on images to enlarge.

############################################################################### ######

Military Humor – 

‘I think it’s about time McFergle retired — he remembers the Lusitania.’

 

#####################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Ball – Sterling, AK; USMC, WWII, PTO

Lloyd Crouse – Columbus, OH; US Army, WWII, PTO, 251st Sta. Hospital, combat medic

Charles Dye – Flint, MI; US Army, WWII

Frank Forlini – Yonkers, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th/11th Airborne Division. Purple Heart

Richard Gordon – Seattle, WA; US Navy, test pilot / NASA astronaut, Gemini 11, Apollo 12 & Apollo 18

Bill Jo Hart – Fort Worth, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Flight Instructor

Alfred Jeske – Seymour, WI; US Army, WWII

Bill Mesker – Wichita, KS; US Navy, WWII

Myra Mitchell – Upalco, UT; USMC, Women’s Corps, WWII

Sterling Wood – Omaha, NE; US Army, Colonel (Ret. 30 y.), 143rd Transportation Command

#####################################################################################

 

Advertisements

About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on November 20, 2017, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 75 Comments.

  1. Reading about WWII generals always makes me wonder if we would still be fighting in the Middle East if the generals were the ones worrying about being blown up by an IED

    Like

  2. Great post and story on General Swing, that picture of the Star studded Class has got to be a classic for that era. I must admit though that sometimes certain peoples are selected for advancement due to political requirements of the time. Predictable outcomes is the word, much like in the Vietnam war, so many medals are forecast to be allowed, hence the four VC winners from my unit, yet no other unit, not detracting from your post mate but much like Politicians, Military leaders are groomed early in their career.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always enjoy the Military Humor cartoons that you post. I especially liked the one about technology.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In 1916 he was a lieutenant, in 1917 a Major, thats one big jump in a little over a year, jumping over a Captaincy apparently.
    Must have been one hell of a good soldier even then to get such rapid promotion.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy Thanksgiving to you!!
    Blessings~

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Applesauce… no wonder they called it the class the stars fell on, that’s a lot of generals for one class. Have a lovely Thanksgiving, GP. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When I was thinking what to write, the time passed.
    It is easy to write thoughts in Native language, but in different language, take time to “select words”(T^T).
    Here, I readed also various comments,and I also think variously.
    The only thing I can say is that I have been feeling that ppl in other countries which don’t attack Japan are “friends of the same human being”.
    I am Lucky that I could meet you,Dr. GP Cox ! 😀

    Tomorrow, Japan is “a day praying for Rich harvest”.
    The Emperor prays to God for the Japanese citizens, I love such Japan. 😀

    Sincerely,Dearest American Friends 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • 私はあなたが私のために英語を話すことがとても大変なことを光栄に思っています。 私は別の言語を学ぶために一生懸命に努力しましたが、成功はありません。 私はGoogle翻訳を使い、正しい言葉を日本語で言うことを願っています。
      この世界の政府と政治は常に問題を生み出してきました。 ほとんどの人は良い(信じている)。 今日の世界では、メディアが悪い人にあまりにも多くの時間を与え、素敵な話は決して話されないと感じています。
      今年は天皇の祈りに答え、日本は豊かな収穫を楽しむことができます。

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I look forward to more stories about General Joseph Swing, Smitty and the 11th Airborne

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hell of a great leader.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wat een respectvol man normaal dat hij zo gelifd is

    Liked by 1 person

  11. While I’m familiar with the Pacific War I am enjoying learning more the history of the 11th and their General. A first rate leader by all accounts.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. To have that amount of respect is the sign of a great leader, a remarkable man and a remarkable career!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. General Swing certainly seems to be a major influence in your father’s life. His name has been repeated time and time again throughout your stories. General Swing was admired by his men and we should still admire his courage and leadership today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would be great to know that some of our troops today have such a man looking out to save their lives and making certain they were trained to the point of perfection.

      Like

  14. Super profile and tribute to a fine general and human being, Gp. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for sharing Gen Swing with us! What an amazing man!
    HUGS!!! 🙂

    BTW: I saw an interesting movie: Land of Mine. It is a 2015 Danish-German historical drama war film. It is inspired by real events and tells the story of German prisoners of war sent to clear landmines in postwar Denmark after World War II. It is estimated that over 2,000 German soldiers, including numerous teenagers, were forced to remove mines, with nearly half of them either getting killed or losing their limbs to explosions.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. God sends remarkable men – for the right moment.
    Or we don’t get through this thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Another amazing soldier. I wonder where America would be if not for this man and many others.

    A side note: I taped Oliver North’s Frozen Chosin from War Stories. I can’t wait to watch it.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I so enjoyed this read. The class the stars fell on… my!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. General Swing’s portrait and the description of his remarkable character clearly show why your dad and many other soldiers perceived him with respect and admiration.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I didn’t know until reading this that Gen. Swing was part of “the class the stars fell on.” Excellent post, GP!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That was some class out of West Point, eh? Hard to believe that much came from just one class!! I was proud to post this from General E.M. Flanagan, he not only served in the 11th Airborne, but I have spoken to him twice on the phone and have a letter from him.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Interesting stuff as always in your blog!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. That is what I call a career in the military. Quite impressive to read his biography and realize how completely he had dedicated his life to the military. Did he have a family as well?

    Liked by 2 people

  23. It amazes me always at how many people it took to win the war. Thank goodness for people like General Swing. Very well written.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. That’s quite a career and quite the remarkable class.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. wow, what a powerful man and amazing story of his career and the impact he had

    Liked by 4 people

  26. Quite a career and an excellent presentation, GP. Thank You.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. A long and distinguished career indeed. Good to know he was liked by the men under his command too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 4 people

  28. An excellent leader and well-respected man! Thank you very much.

    Like

  29. Much appreciated, Andrew!

    Like

  1. Pingback: The Weekly Headlines-Posted on November 25, 2017 by lafayetteangel – Br Andrew's Muses

  2. Pingback: The Weekly Headlines – My Daily Musing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: