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Joseph Jacob Foss

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Joe FossGreat American Patriot Badge Sample - smallJoseph (Joe) Jacob Foss is a remarkable American whose dedicated service and selfless devotion to his Country spanned almost ninety years!

Although his most notable service was as a combat aviator and Medal of Honor recipient, Joe Foss continued to serve his Country throughout his remarkable life. 

His personal motto of "There's nothing I would not do for this Country" is a testimony to his life and serves to establish his lasting legacy as a "Great American Patriot."

Born on a farm near Sioux Falls, South Dakota on April 17, 1915, Joe became captivated with flight at the age of eleven following a visit to a local air show which featured aerial maneuvers performed by Charles Lindberg. 

Impressed by what he had witnessed, Joe set his goal on becoming an aviator.  Within a a few years, Joe got his first airplane ride and from that point, "the sky was the limit."Following graduation from high school, Joe enrolled in the University of South Dakota.  However, due to the death of his father in 1934 Joe had to delay his studies in order to help his mother run his family's farm.  With the onset of the great depression, Joe's personal drive and determination carried him through difficult times.  Working at a service station, Joe managed to earn enough to continue his college studies and to take flying lessons.  By 1940 Joe had received his pilot's certificate and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota.

In order to pursue his passion for aviation, Joe enlisted into the Marine Corps Reserves, then applied for and was accepted as a Naval Aviation Cadet.  Following flight training, Joe was designated a naval aviator and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve where he served in various capacities including that of a flight instructor.Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Joe served as a fighter pilot with Marine Fighting Squadron 121 on Guadalcanal in the early days of the Pacific Campaign.

Despite the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Japanese, Joe's skill in flying, tactics and aerial gunnery became legendary, earning him the distinction as the second highest Marine Corps ace with 26 confirmed aerial victories. His bravery in aerial combat and skills during the dark days of World War II proved instrumental to victory in the campaign for the Solomon Islands. 

Joe was recognized in 1943 for these acts of valor when he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for service as set forth in the following citation: 

Medal of Honor"For outstanding heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of a Marine Fighting Squadron, at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Engaging in almost daily combat with the enemy from October 9 to November 19, 1942, Captain Foss personally shot down twenty-three 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 January 15, 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 January 25, Captain Foss led his eight F4F Marine planes and four Army P-38s 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 the remainder of the Second World War, Joe served stateside at the request of President Roosevelt, helping to lead campaigns to sell U.S. War Bonds—a necessary and vital task in support of the war effort.

With the end of the war in 1945, Joe returned to South Dakota and opened a flight instruction school and a charter flying service.  Concurrent with this, he accepted a commission in the Air National Guard and assisted in the establishment and organization of the South Dakota Air National Guard—an organization from which he eventually retired as a Brigadier General.

In 1948 Joe was elected to the South Dakota legislature, a post which he held for five years.  Never to be left behind during a period of crisis, Joe was recalled to active duty in the Air Force in 1950 during the Korean War, serving as the Director of Operations and Training for the Central Air Defense Command.  Following the end of the Korean War, Joe returned to the political arena and was elected in 1954 as the Governor of South Dakota—becoming a very popular Governor and gaining re-election to a second term.

Departing politics in 1958, Joe became Commissioner of the newly-formed American Football League the following year.  During his tenure as Commissioner, Joe oversaw the emergence of the American Football League, and his efforts proved instrumental in the establishment of a national title game—the Super Bowl.  Joe left this position in 1966, just two months prior to the National Football League agreeing to merge with the American Football League.  During this period Joe also became involved in television, hosting the ABC-TV weekly program "The American Sportsman" from 1964 through 1967 and the syndicated program "The Outdoorsman: Joe Foss" which aired from 1967 through 1974.

Over the next 18 years, Joe continued an active professional life serving as the Director of Public Affairs for the Royal Dutch Airlines, Chairman of the U.S. Air Force Association, Director of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Chairman of the Campus Crusade for Christ International, and as President of the National Rifle Association.Joe Foss InstituteIn April 2001 at the age of 86, Joe founded the Joe Foss Institute with the mission of the “Restoration of patriotism, integrity, and an appreciation for America's freedoms.” 

The Joe Foss Institute accomplishes this objective through a variety of means including a Scholarship program and a "Veterans Inspiring Patriotism" program in which volunteer veterans visit schools and youth groups promoting patriotism through personal contact with young people. 

Even at his advanced age, Joe continued to travel and share his message of patriotism and his enduring faith.Our Country lost a great American on January 1, 2003 when Joe Foss died following a stroke he had suffered three months earlier.  Joe was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors, however his legacy as one of America's great patriots lives on.

Semper Fi Joe Foss!

Written by Robert Yanacek
USMC Retired

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