Ernest W. Swanson
Ernest was born in Wisconsin on 19 Oct 1915. His father emigrated from Sweden in 1904 and his mother was born in Illinois to Swedish parents. 1933 he graduated from Central High in Madison and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin where he was a member of Sigma Nu. He graduated in 1940 with a Bachelor of Philosophy. After working at the American Exchange Bank in Madison, he enlisted in the National Guard on 13 Jan 1941 and was with the Headquarters Company, 107th Quartermaster Regiment. Five months later he transferred to the Air Corps. August 1942, he completed his work at the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center and officially became an aviation cadet. Primary was at Corsicana, TX, basic at Waco, TX and advanced at Foster Field, TX. He was a graduate of class 43-H, which included Swaim, Taylor, and Robbins. Tactical Reconnaissance training was at Meridian, MS where he and six other future 118th pilots were attached to the 124th TRS in December 1943. These seven would be the first additions to the 118th while it was in India. Swanson, at age 29, is believed to have been the oldest pilot in the 118th, over four years older than the commanding officer LTC McComas.
Swanson wasted no time getting in on the action. He flew his first mission, and the second offensive mission of the 118th, on 28 JUN 1944. By the end of July 1944, he had flown approximately 15 missions. 06 Aug 1944, would be another busy day for the 118th as they would fly four missions. Swanson would fly the last two missions of the day. Gee lead the third mission of the day which consisted of eight P-40s off at 1035 on a three hour mission to bomb and strafe targets of opportunity in the Hengyang area. They returned at 1320. Gee would also lead the fourth mission of the day. This mission, #119, took off less than three hours after the prior mission ended. Gee would again lead eight P-40s to Hengyang to hit targets of opportunity.
Weather and darkness would create a difficult return for the flight. Major Jones was homed by the directional finder at Yangton Field (Kweilin) and led the remaining seven ships to the airfield. Watts left the formation earlier due to a rough engine and would bailout and return to the squadron. Jones gave the pilots the option to remain in formation or trail. Once over the airfield, Jones descended through the initial overcast at 10,000' and broke out at 8,000'. After initial let down, Gee, O' Brien, and Swanson were not seen. The second layer of overcast was from 6500' to 5000'. When Jones broke out of the second overcast, he was over Kweilin and told the others to let down. Ray Darby noticed two fires burning as he descended through the overcast. The following morning it was determined that the fires he had seen were the crashes of two of the P-40s. Gee, O' Brien, and Swanson were killed when their planes crashed into a mountain while attempting to find the field. Jones, Darby, Stutzman, and Wegman landed safely.
Swanson's remains were returned to the United States on the USAT Cardinal O'Connell in February 1948. They arrived in Madison on 16 Mar 1948 where they were buried in his hometown.