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Passing of a patriot. (The Goodness of America).

In February of last year at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, 86-year-old Brigadier General Joe Foss (USAF, retired) was on his way to deliver a speech in New England when a security screener pulled him aside. The screener suspected that the elderly passenger might be carrying some dangerous items. The "dangerous" items were found to be a nail file, an innocuous dummy bullet with a hole drilled through it for hanging on a key chain, and what the screener perceived to be a menacing ninja throwing star. After 45 minutes of repeated searches and questioning, Foss was allowed to continue his trip, and was even permitted to keep the "throwing star"--which was actually the congressional Medal of Honor that the general had received in 1943 from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In October, General Foss, then age 87, traveled to Beaverton, Michigan, to support a great-nephew who was seeking admission to the U.S. Military Academy. He also planned to speak to students at Beaverton High School. Tragically, he suffered an apparent ruptured aneurysm the evening before the school appearance and was hospitalized in critical condition. He died on January 1,2003, at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona, without regaining consciousness.

Joseph Jacob Foss was born on April 17, 1915 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As a captain in the Marine Corps Reserve, he was executive officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 121, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, during the battle for Guadalcanal Island (the first U.S. offensive of World War II in the Pacific). As described in his Medal of Honor citation, he engaged "in almost daily combat with the enemy from 9 October to 19 November 1942," personally shooting down "23 Japanese planes" and damaging others "so severely that their destruction was extremely probable." He also "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 "3 more enemy planes to his already brilliant successes for a record of aerial combat achievement unsurpassed in this war." It tied the 26 German aircraft shot down by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker during World War I. And on January 25, 1943, Foss "led his 8 F-4F Marine planes and 4 Army P-38's into action and, undaunted by tremendously superior numbers, intercepted and struck with such force that 4 Japanese fighters were shot down and the bombers were turned back without releasing a single bomb."

The Medal of Honor citation concluded with the notation that Captain Foss' "remarkable flying skill, inspiring leadership, and indomitable fighting spirit were distinctive factors in the defense of strategic American positions on Guadalcanal." In addition to the Medal of Honor, Foss received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart.

During the Korean War, Foss returned to active duty as an Air Force colonel, serving as director of operations for the Central Air Defense Force. He later helped organize South Dakota's Air National Guard and retired from the guard as a brigadier general. In 1984, he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

As a civilian, Foss served in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 1948 to 1953, and was the state's governor from 1954 to 1958. In 1960, he became the first commissioner of the American Football League. An ardent outdoorsman and gun rights advocate, he served a term as president of the National Rifle Association and hosted the popular television shows The American Sportsman and The Outdoorsman: Joe Foss.

During a 1987 interview, Foss, a devout Christian, declared: "I always had the attitude that every day will be a great day. I look forward to it like a kid in a candy store, wherever I am." With a long, multifaceted life of heroism, character, and achievement, he stands as a truly exemplary archetype of both the greatness and goodness of America.
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Title Annotation:retired United States Air Force Bigadier General Jos Foss
Author:Lee, Robert W.
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 24, 2003
Previous Article:Helping a friend in need. (The Goodness of America).
Next Article:Beating the odds at Inchon. (History-Struggle for Freedom).

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