Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

1982 1985 1990 1997 2000 2002

Eagle Biography

Joseph J. Foss

Joe Foss is truly a Proud American! Born near Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1915, he graduated from the University of South Dakota. He soon joined the Marine Corps, became a Naval Aviator and received his commission in March 1941. After a tour as an instructor at NAS Pensacola, Florida, he joined Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 121. In late 1942, VMF-121 shipped out to Guadalcanal, where Foss, in less than three months of combat, flying the Grumman F4F Wildcat, tied Rickenbackers World War I record of 26 aerial victories.

For his extraordinary combat record, on 18 May 1943, he received the Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt in the White House and was featured on the cover of the 7 June 1943 issue of Life magazine. In 1944, he returned to combat in the south Pacific for the Bougainville and Emirau campaigns. He commanded VMF-115 while flying the Vought F4U Corsair. After World War II, he resigned from the Marine Corps Reserve and accepted a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the South Dakota National Guard. In 1946, he formed and commanded an Air National Guard (ANG) unit that would become the 175th Fighter Squadron equipped with the North American P-51 Mustang.

Elected in 1948, he served two terms in the South Dakota House of Representatives. During the Korean War, Foss was called to active duty. He became Director of Operations and Training at the Central Air Defense Command, which covered a 20-state area. In 1952, the 175th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS), returned to State control and Foss became Chief of Staff for the South Dakota ANG. In 1954, Foss was promoted to Brigadier General and the 175th FIS converted to jets, flying the Lockheed F-94 Starfire. Still a gung-ho fighter pilot, he was elected Governor of South Dakota in 1954 and reelected in 1956.

From 1956 to 1961, he served as President of the National Society of Crippled Children and Adults. From 1960 to 1966, he was Commissioner of the newly established American Football League. Foss has had a lifetime full of service and accolades in many fields. He was the original host for the television show, American Sportsman, and produced and starred in The Outdoorsman: Joe Foss from 1966 to 1974. He has been a director of public affairs for KLM Airlines, President and Chairman of the Board for the Air Force Association, and President of the National Rifle Association. He is a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio and is the author of two books, "Joe Foss, Flying Marine", and "A Proud American: The Autobiography of Joe Foss." He remains active in the adult ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International.

See the Lithograph
2002
Lithograph Setting

All but three of Joe Foss' 26 "kills" came in the incredibly short span of 42 days. On 23 October 1942, he bagged four Japanese Zeros, a single-day tally he would surpass just 2 days later. On the morning of the 25th, Foss got his first Zero of the day when it pulled up in front of him and destroyed his second in a head-on attack. That afternoon the Wildcats scrambled again, and Foss quickly knocked two more "Zekes" out of the sky. He then nailed his fifth aircraft of the day in the middle of the Japanese pilot's ill-timed victory roll!

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