Foss, Joseph Jacob “Joe”.

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Foss, Joseph Jacob, born, 17-04-1915, on a farm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota , the oldest son of Mary Esther (born Lacey) and Frank Ole Foss. He was of Norwegian and Scottish descent. At age 12, he visited an airfield in Renner to see Charles Lindbergh   on tour with his aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis. Four years later, he and his father paid $1.50 apiece to take their first aircraft ride in a Ford Trimotor at Black Hills Airport with a famed South Dakota aviator, Clyde Ice. Joe was described as patrioticheroic, and courageous, He was a decorated WWII fighter pilot in the United States Marine Corps who went on to become South Dakota’s youngest governor. Joe was the first commissioner of the American Football League, a television broadcaster, the president of the National Rifle Association, and a Brigadier General in the United States Air Force. From then on Joe’s biggest dream was to become a pilot. When he was 17 years old, he dropped out of college to help his mother run the farm after his father’s tragic death. While working on the farm, Joe scraped together enough money to take flying lessons. Eventually Joe’s younger brother took over the farm, and Joe returned to the University of South Dakota and graduated with a business degree and a civilian pilot’s license.

After graduation Joe enlisted in the United States Marine Corp Reserves as an aviation cadet. He went to Pensacola, Florida, where he earned his Marine wings. He went on to become a flight instructor and was placed in charge of base security. After Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, Foss, here stands with Cactus Air Force commander Major General Roy Geiger, “Rugged Roy”.

 was assigned to a photo reconnaissance squadron. Unhappy with this assignment, Joe insisted he be assigned to fighter pilot duty. At 27, he was told he was too old to be a fighter pilot. Joe was determined to prove his superiors wrong, and, after training on an F4F Wildcat, was sent to the South Pacific.

Joe and his fighter wing, called “Foss’s Flying Circus,” made history at Guadalcanal in the South Pacific! They flew over 60 missions with Joe leading the squadron. He became flying ace in the first week, downing 5 Japanese planes, and within 6 weeks he had downed 19, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. By January 1943, Foss and his Flying Circus were credited with destroying 72 Japanese planes, and Foss was given credit for 26 of those. Joe Foss, Major Marion Eugene Carl

and advisor Charles Lindbergh in South Pacific, May 1944 As a war hero, Foss was called back to Washington, DC, to sell U.S. War Bonds to help finance the war effort. Joe’s picture appeared on the cover of Life magazine. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government) by President Franklin Roosevelt. The President said these words in his presentation to Joe: “…His remarkable flying skill, inspiring leadership and indomitable fighting spirit were distinctive factors in the defense of strategic American positions on Guadalcanal.”

Between the years of 1944-1954, he helped organize the South Dakota Air National Guard, served two terms in the South Dakota House of Representatives, and returned to the military to serve in the Korean War.

Joe Foss became governor of South Dakota in 1955 by an overwhelming majority of votes. After serving as governor, Joe ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives against George McGovern, but he lost. Joe became the first Commissioner of the American Football League and helped create the Super Bowl. He also starred in his own television show called The Outdoorsman, Joe Foss. Some of his later accomplishments included president of the National Rifle Association, founder of the Joe Foss Institute, Director of Public Affairs for Royal Dutch Airlines, International Chairman of Campus Crusade for Christ, and co-author of Top Gun and A Proud American. Joe Foss’s dream of becoming a pilot as a child led him to become a true American war hero. His courage and patriotism guided him to serve both his state and country.

Death and burial ground of Foss, Joseph Jacob “Joe”.


Foss suffered a stroke in October 2002 when he bled from a cerebral aneurysm. He died three months later on New Year’s Day, 01-01- 2003, age 87, never having regained consciousness, in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he and his wife had made their home in later years. Vice President Dick Cheney, retired Colonel Oliver North and South Dakota native and NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw were among those who attended with North delivering the eulogy.

Receiving the Medal of Honor from Franklin Delano Roosevelt 

Actor Charlton Heston gave a brief tribute to his old friend. Foss was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 7A, Lot 162 on 21-01- 2003. Family, friends, military personnel and dignitaries remembered him fondly at a service in Arlington and at an earlier “Memorial Service for an American Patriot” in the old chapel at nearby Fort Myer

Close neighbours in Section 7A are the 101st Airborne Division commander, General Taylor, Maxwell Davenport  and the former world champion boxing and WW2 technical sergeant Joe “Barrow” Louis further the most decorated US soldier, Infantry Major Audie Murphy and the Air Force Major General. famous for his “Doolittle Raid” on Japan. Jimmy Doolittle

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