Joseph M. Swing, 90, a retired Army lieutenant general and highly decorated combat veteran of three wars who later served as a forceful and often controversial commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, died of pneumonia Dec. 9 at Letterman Army Medical Center at the Presidio in San Francisco.
He was a lieutenant under Gen. John J. Pershing during the 1916 Mexican border campaign and served as a captain in the field artillery in France during World War I. As a major general, he commanded the 11th Airborne division in the Southwest Pacific during World War II. He parachuted with his men into the battles for Leyte and Manila, and commanded the division when it was chosen as the first American unit to occupy Japan after the war.
After that, he served as commandant of the Army War College, and then as commanding general of the Sixth Army, based at the Presidio, before retiring from active duty in 1954. Along the way, he earned an impressive array of medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's highest award for valor next to the Medal of Honor. Others included the Legion of Merit, three Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars and two Air medals.
Gen. Swing was a native of Jersey City, N.J. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1915, a member of "the class the stars fell on." The class of that year probably contained more future general officers than any in history. Among his classmates were future generals of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar N. Bradley.
Upon his retirement from active duty, Gen. Swing was called upon by his friend and former classmate, Eisenhower, then the president of the United States, to become immigration commissioner. He held the job for eight stormy years before retiring from that office in 1962.
During those years, Gen. Swing came under fire of a new kind and became one of the more controversial figures in the Eisenhower administration.
Liberal critics charged that he administered immigration and deportation laws harshly and unfairly. He was criticized in 1956 by a congressional committee for the "improper use" of government funds and equipment on hunting trips in Mexico.
He married Josephine Mary March in 1918. They had two children.