Technical Sergeant (Sep.) Durward Swanson was a Georgia farm boy who joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1939. At 18 years old, Swanson's first duty station was Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
Swanson was an aircraft mechanic until a sergeant saw him riding a motorcycle and promoted him to buck sergeant so he could be in charge of five other Airmen who rode motorcycles and patrolled the base.
On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, Swanson was on his way to bed when he was notified that the Japanese started the attack, hitting the base chow hall and killing more than 100 Airmen. He immediately went to the main gate to help out in security. He helped as much as he could, to include riding to the base baseball field to retrieve an Airman and facing dangerous encounters along the way. He helped set up base security and was one of the two Airmen who retrieved the American Flag on the main post that day.
Swanson also took part in the battle of Midway. As a flying crew chief, a B-17E bomber he was on was attacked by a Japanese battle group near Midway Island in the Pacific. Many of his crew members died that day, and he was severely injured, but they contributed greatly to the battle that changed the balance of power in the region.
He received the Distinguished Flying Medal and a Bronze star for his acts during World War II.
Swanson then left the service and earned his degree in civil engineering and worked for contracting companies around the country where he had the chance to work for the Air Force Academy in Colorado. He also went on to write about his experience in the Pacific with the title “Pearl Harbor: The Life of a Country Boy and the Service to His Country During World War II.” Since then, Swanson has toured the country speaking about his time in the Army Air Corps. Swanson now resides in Maryville, Tenn.