Flying ACE MOHR USMC Capt. Joseph Jacob Foss
by Katie Lange, DoD News
April 26, 2023
down any enemy aircraft during World War II was a win.
But shooting down a record 26 ... That’s the stuff of legend ... and
Marine Corps Capt. Joseph Jacob Foss was certainly that.
Foss was born in 1915 and grew up in Sioux
City, South Dakota, where he became fascinated with aviation after
watching Charles Lindbergh at a local airshow. He eventually went on
to college, where he earned a degree and a pilot’s certificate.
1940, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve so he could join the
Naval Aviation Cadet program. When he finished, he was officially a
commissioned Marine pilot.
When the U.S. joined World War II,
Foss took to the air. He was the executive officer of Marine
Fighting Squadron 121 of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, which became
a force to be reckoned with during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the
Guadalcanal was the first major offensive by Allied forces
against the Japanese, who had occupied the island up until August
1942, when Allied troops overwhelmed and ousted them.
Japanese tried several times to retake the island via land, air and
sea. Here’s how Foss and his squadron hit back...
From Oct. 9
to Nov 19, 1942, Foss -- whose skills eventually earned him the
nickname the “Ace of Aces” -- was credited with shooting down 23
Japanese airplanes and seriously damaging several others. He also
led escort missions during that time that covered reconnaissance,
bombing, photographic and surface aircraft.
On Jan. 15, 1943,
Foss shot down three more enemy aircraft, bringing his total to 26
in 44 days -- a record that was unsurpassed during World War II.
On Jan. 25, 1943, Foss led several Marine and Army aircrews into
action against an enemy that vastly outnumbered them. Their attack
was so successful that they were able to shoot down four Japanese
aircraft, and the enemy’s bombers turned around without dropping a
Marine Corps Capt. Joseph Foss, fourth from left, with members of Marine Fighting Squadron 121 on an airfield.
(DOD courtesy photo)
The Japanese gave up trying to retake
the island by the end of February, and Foss’s flying skills,
leadership and fighting spirit played a major factor in the island’s
defense. They also earned him the Medal of Honor, which he received
from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in May 1943. He was also one of
only three Medal of Honor recipients featured on the cover of “Life”
After the war, Foss left active duty and joined the
South Dakota Air National Guard. He retired as an Air Force
brigadier general, but his accomplishments AFTER his days on the
battlefield were just as impressive.
Foss was elected as a
South Dakota state representative in 1948 and served for five years
in that position. He then became the state’s governor from
1955-1959. Foss also served as the commissioner of the early
American Football League and was a key figure in the initiation of
the Super Bowl. He was also once the National Rifle Association’s
That’s a pretty impressive life!
in 2003 at the age of 87. He was buried with honors in Arlington
Marine Corps Capt. Joseph Jacob Foss'
Medal of Honor Citation ||
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