John Leonard Swigert, Jr. (30 August 1931–27 December 1982)

John L. Swigert, Jr., Astronaut
John L. Swigert, Jr., Astronaut, Command Module Pilot, Apollo XIII. (NASA)

John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr., was born at Denver, Colorado, 30 August 1931, the first of three children of John Leonard Swigert, a physician, and Virginia Seep Swigert. Interested in aviation from an early age, he was a licensed Private Pilot at age 16. He graduated from Denver’s East High School in 1949.

Jack Swigert, 1952.

Jack Swigert attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. He was a member of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC), played on the varsity football team, and was a member of the C Club. He graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Following his graduation, Swigert was commissioned as a second lieutenant, United States Air Force Reserve.

Lieutenant Swigert flew fighters from bases in Japan and Korea, then after completing his active duty requirement, 2 October 1956, he  transferred to the Air National Guard. He served with the Massachusetts ANG and Connecticut ANG.

Swigert earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, in 1965, as well as a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Hartford at Hartford, Connecticut.

Captain John L. Swigert, Jr., United States Air Force, F-100 Super Sabre pilot, 118th Fighter Squadron, Connecticut Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Captain John L. Swigert, Jr., United States Air Force, F-100A Super Sabre pilot, 118th Fighter Squadron, Connecticut Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)

While flying with the Air Guard, Swigert also worked for North American Aviation, Inc., as an engineering test pilot, and then for Pratt & Whitney.

He became one of 19 men selected as crewmembers of NASA’s Apollo Program 1965. He requested an assignment as pilot of the Apollo Command and Service Module.

Swigert was a member of the support team for the Apollo 7 mission, and was then selected as Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 13 backup crew, along with John Watts Young and Charles M. Duke, Jr.  When the primary crew CMP, Ken Mattingly, was thought to have been exposed to measles, he was withdrawn from Apollo 13 and Jack Swigert took his place in the primary crew.

Apollo 13 was planned as the third lunar landing mission. The circumstances of its flight are well known. When disaster struck, all three astronauts performed an amazing feat as they had to improvise their safe return to Earth.

Swigert left NASA in 1977 and entered politics. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, representing the the 6th District of Colorado.

On the night of 27 December 1982, before he could be sworn into office, John Leonard Swigert, Jr., aerospace engineer, fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut and congressman, died from complications of cancer.

John L. Swigert, Jr. Memorial, bronze sculpture by Mark and George Lundeen, in the National Statuary Hall Collection, United States Capitol. Gift of the State of Colorado, 1997. (Architect of the Capitol)
John L. Swigert, Jr. Memorial, bronze sculpture by Mark and George Lundeen, in the National Statuary Hall Collection, United States Capitol. Gift of the State of Colorado, 1997. (Architect of the Capitol)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

1 thought on “John Leonard Swigert, Jr. (30 August 1931–27 December 1982)

Comments are closed.