PEOPLE--UNITED STATES

Brigadier General Joseph J. Foss, SDNG, (1915-2003)

Joseph Jacob Foss was born on 17 April 1915 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He enlisted from that same state in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in June 1940. In March 1941, following flight training at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, he was designated a Marine Aviator and commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Upon the United States' entry into WWII, he was serving as an aviation instructor at Pensacola. In April 1942, he was promoted to First Lieutenant and reported that summer to Camp Kearney at San Diego, California. In August, he was promoted to Captain.

In September 1942, Foss became the Executive Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron One Hundred Twenty One (VMF-121). Engaging the enemy almost daily during the Battle of Guadalcanal from 9 October to 19 November, he shot down 23 Japanese planes. On 15 January 1943, he shot down three more enemy planes. On 25 January, he led a flight mission that shot down four additional Japanese fighters before the remaining enemy bombers turned back. For his "outstanding heroism and courage" during these flying missions, Foss was awarded the Medal of Honor. In April, he reported to the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters and then undertook a series of travels around the country to promote and inspire young Marines. In June, he was promoted to Major. Returning to the Pacific in February 1944, he became Squadron Commander of Marine Fighting Squadron One Hundred Fifteen (VMF-115). After this tour in September, Foss received orders to Marine Barracks, Klamath Falls, Oregon. In February 1945, he became an operations and training officer at Marine Corps Air Station, Santa Barbara, California.

In December, Foss reverted to inactive duty and later resigned from the Marine Corps. In September 1946, he was appointed a Lieutenant Colonel in the South Dakota Air National Reserve, attaining the rank of Brigadier General in September 1953. For his civilian career, Foss entered politics in 1948 and was elected to the South Dakota's State House of Representatives. In June 1954, he was elected as the Governor of South Dakota, where he served two terms. In 1960, Foss became the first commissioner of the American Football League and remained with the league for six years. In the Sixties and Seventies, he hosted several sportsman and outdoorsman television programs. In 1988, he began a two-year term as the President of the National Rifle Association. Joseph J. Foss died on 1 January 2003 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

This page features the only images we have concerning Joseph J. Foss.

Photo #: NH 105928

Captain Joseph J. Foss, USMCR


Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 187.
Joseph J. Foss was awarded the Medal of Honor while serving as Executive Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron One Twenty One (VMF 121) of the First Marine Aircraft Wing during the Battle of Guadalcanal from 9 October 1942 to 25 January 1943. Engaging the Japanese almost daily during this time, Foss shot down 26 enemy aircraft, becoming America's Number One Fighter Ace during World War II.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 74KB; 580 x 765 pixels

 
Photo #: 80-G-34232

Captain Joseph J. Foss, USMCR

At a base in the South Pacific in 1943. In six weeks' combat out of Guadalcanal, he shot down 23 Japanese planes.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 90KB; 570 x 765 pixels

Reproductions may be available at National Archives.

 
Photo #: USMC 52618

Captain Joseph J. Foss, USMCR


Portrait photograph, taken at Guadalcanal in 1943. Foss was America's Number One Ace who shot down 26 Japanese planes to equal U.S. Army Captain Eddie Rickenbacker's World War I record.

U.S. Marine Corps Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 69KB; 580 x 765 pixels

Reproductions may be available at National Archives.

 


Medal of Honor citation of Captain Joseph J. Foss, USMCR (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 187):

"For outstanding heroism and courage, above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron ONE TWENTY ONE, First Marine Aircraft Wing, at Guadalcanal. Engaging in almost daily combat with the enemy from 9 October to 19 November 1942, Captain Foss personally shot down 23 Japanese planes and damaged others so severely that their destruction was extremely probable. In addition, during this period, he successfully led a large number of escort missions, skillfully covering reconnaissance, bombing and photographic planes as well as surface craft. On 15 January 1943, he added three more enemy planes to his already brilliant successes for a record of aerial combat achievement unsurpassed in this war. Boldly searching out an approaching enemy force on 25 January, Captain Foss led his eight F4F Marine planes and four Army P-38's into action and, undaunted by tremendously superior numbers, intercepted and struck with such force that four Japanese fighters were shot down and the bombers were turned back without releasing a single bomb. His remarkable flying skill, inspiring leadership and indomitable fighting spirit were distinctive factors in the defense of strategic American positions on Guadalcanal."


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.

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