From Lyons, Colorado, Charles P. Swift worked for the National Park Service in Rocky Mountain National Park, joined the CCC in 1936, then enlisted in the Navy and was stationed on the USS Phelps as a radioman at Pearl Harbor in 1941. His clear and detailed wartime diary chronicles his life aboard the destroyer through September 1942 as well as action in the Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and the Solomon Islands.
Charles Swift’s wartime diary connects this Colorado native to momentous world events. His story is not unlike many young Colorado men who graduated high school in the midst of the Great Depression and went on to join the military. Swift’s diary is the centerpiece of the Swift/Bohn/Smith Family exhibit at the museum. The exhibit also includes family photographs, documents, military uniforms, Swift’s medals, a video history interview from July 1994, and additional artifacts from these Colorado pioneer families. Charles Swift is a descendant of two of Colorado’s pioneer families, his grandparents having homesteaded in the Mead area in the early 1870s. Swift’s father, Sherman S. Swift, operated a blacksmith shop in Lyons in the 1890s taking care of the tools for the quarry workers and later worked in the Noland quarries. His father also worked in the gold mines of Nederland and the Smuggler Mine outside of Allenspark mining tungsten. In 1892, his mother, Anna Bohn Swift, came to Noland with her parents. Noland was a sandstone quarry town and now a ghost town in the hills above Lyons. She married Sherman in 1895 at the Old Stone Church in Lyons. Both the Swift and the Bohn families were involved in the burgeoning sandstone quarry industry in Colorado. In the early to mid-1930s Charles and his brothers were known across the state for their talent on the baseball field. In 1937 Charles enlisted in the US Navy and in 1939 was selected to pitch for the US Fleet All-Stars against the Cuban National Team. In November of 1942, while on leave, he married Roberta Smith whose family were early pioneers in Blackhawk and Central City. Her great-grandfather, Rodolphus Nelson Smith was the builder of the famous “Lace House” in 1863 in Blackhawk. After his career in the US Navy, Charles and his family moved back to Lyons. Like their father his two sons graduated from Lyons High School. Charles was acting Lyons Postmaster for a time and then worked at Rocky Flats until his retirement in 1977. Roberta worked in the Lyons schools as a secretary from 1959 to 1977. Charles Swift passed away in Longmont, CO in June 1998 at the age of 84.
“December 7, 1941 – Sunday Pearl Harbor: – At about 0745 this morning I was awakened by the general alarm for general quarters. I decided it wasn’t a drill by the look on everyone’s face, so I hopped out of my bunk, scrambled up the ladder to the topside.... I looked around and saw planes diving from out of the sun.… We were caught with our pants down there is no doubt about it.” So begins the World War II diary of Charles P. Swift, born in 1914 in Lyons, Colorado. Swift worked for the National Park Service in Rocky Mountain National Park, joined the CCC in 1936, then enlisted in the Navy in 1937. He was stationed on the USS Phelps as a radioman in Pearl Harbor in 1941. The significance of his diary lies in its rarity, its connection to historic world events, and the clarity and detail of Swift’s accounts. It honors those who served and tells their story as well as his. As a radioman he was privy to information that was not readily available to others. The diary chronicles Swift’s life aboard the destroyer through September 1942 as well as action in the Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and the Solomon Islands. The Lyons Redstone Museum has transcribed the diary, making it accessible to the public.
Lyons Redstone Museum
340 High St
Lyons, CO 80540