Another hero lost...


January 10, 2003, 08:39 AM
Sadly many of our WWII veterans leave us every day, my grandfather being one of them. Here is another one I had the pleasure of speaking with in Scottsdale several years back.

2,000 bid farewell

The Arizona Republic

Gen. William L. Nyland, the Assistant Commandant of the Marines consoles Dede Foss, widow of Joe Foss.

Kristina Davis
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 10, 2003 12:00 AM

Joe Foss wasn't just a member of the "greatest generation," he was one of its greatest heroes.

In a generation that prided itself on achievement, he achieved more than most.

Nearly 2,000 people came together Thursday at Scottsdale Bible Church for a farewell befitting a flying ace who dedicated his life to public service, his church and family.

Actor Charlton Heston, another member of Foss' generation, which is fading from the stage, gave a brief but powerful tribute to his friend despite limitations caused by symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Foss was also a mentor to NBC news anchorman Tom Brokaw, who said in videotaped remarks that Foss had the "aura of a hero but the openness of the guy next door."

Former first lady Barbara Bush sent her family's regards in a letter saying, "The whole Bush family thought the world of you."

The memorial service was full of military pomp and circumstance, including a flyover by F-16s in a missing-man formation.

Related link
• Read the obituary and sign a virtual guest book

But Foss wasn't just an ace pilot. He was also a former governor of South Dakota, first commissioner of the American Football League and a past president of the National Rifle Association, which Heston leads.

Cars with American flag decals and bumper stickers including "I'm the NRA and I vote" and "Proud to be an American" filled the parking lot.

Foss died Jan. 1 at 87 in Scottsdale after suffering an aneurysm in October.

Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic
Joe Foss


Brokaw, a native of South Dakota, and Foss became friends in 1957 when Brokaw was 17. Foss, then governor of South Dakota, invited Brokaw, governor of Boy's State, to be his partner on a national quiz show, where they won $612 each.

Foss was a key inspiration behind Brokaw's 1998 book The Greatest Generation, about Americans who came of age during the Depression and World War II and helped shape the country.

When Heston walked to the podium, he got a standing ovation. It was a poignant moment and a show of respect for the actor and his struggle with early signs of Alzheimer's.

He bowed to the audience, then spoke briefly about his friend who had served two terms as NRA president.

"I've known no man of more honor than Joe Foss. I'll miss his smile, his passion and his friendship," he said, reading from text.

Bill Bright of Orlando, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ International, also videotaped his remarks.

"Joe Foss was the original John Wayne. John Wayne was an actor, but Joe is real," he said.

Mourners were told that Foss turned down a Hollywood offer to have Wayne play him in a movie because there was a love interest in the script.

Gen. William Nyland, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, bade a tearful goodbye to a man he had heard about for decades from when he was in officer's training in the Marines.

"I would later learn that there wasn't an aircraft in the world that could account for all the victories of Joe's life," he said of the 26 flags posted on Foss' fighter plane that symbolized the 26 planes he shot down in World War II.

"We will miss you. Your Corps will miss you," Nyland said, his voice cracking.

After a bagpipe bellowed a mournful Amazing Grace, a 21-gun salute exploded into the sky and F-16s thundered overhead.

Thursday was also officially declared Joe Foss Day, and state flags flew at half-staff.

In the end, Foss got the last word when he spoke to the mourners in an old videotape about his Christian faith.

"Each one of us is one breath away from leaving this great world of ours, and it's better to know where you're going," he said. "God bless you all and have another great day."

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-6848.

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Kentucky Rifle
January 10, 2003, 10:35 AM
Great read Harry.
Thank you.


rock jock
January 10, 2003, 11:35 AM
A true American hero. A great loss for our country.

January 10, 2003, 12:03 PM
That article doesn't even mention his Medal of Honor.

To recount for those not familiar with this hero, we should recount some high points:

Won the Distinguished Flying Cross
Won the Congressional Medal of Honor
First Commissioner of the American Football League
NRA President

Sad day.

El Tejon
January 10, 2003, 12:05 PM
How sad that Congress has piddled around with the Second World War Memorial while the years have passed. Maybe it will be dedicated before it becomes illegal to teach WWII to their greatgrandchildren.:(

4v50 Gary
January 10, 2003, 02:18 PM
BTW guys, Joe Foss wrote his autobiography and published it just a short while back. I bought an autographed copy from the Air Museum in San Diego last year.

January 10, 2003, 02:32 PM
Joe Foss was a great American. He was a role model for us all to follow. His passing is a great loss. Let us honor his memory by standing up for the wonderful things he believed in:


January 10, 2003, 02:47 PM
That article doesn't even mention his Medal of Honor.
That would be the TSA-designated "dangerous weapon" MOH, right?:fire:
TFL Survivor

January 10, 2003, 03:01 PM

A picture of Joe Foss during WWII

You can read a short Bio on Joe Foss Here (

January 10, 2003, 03:02 PM
Exactly, Leatherneck!

Isn't it a shame that the only press Joe Foss got in the last years of his life were because of that security moron?

January 10, 2003, 06:13 PM
Thanks for the posts.

We should never forget.

January 10, 2003, 06:23 PM
i hope his family didnt have to use America West to attend his services (

may he rest in piece. he certainly earned that much and more.

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