Joe Foss, "the Flying Marine," was the first man to tie Eddie Rickenbacker's WW I record of 26 enemy kills. By the time he graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1940, General Foss had developed an intense interest in aviation and had logged more than 100 flying hours. He entered Marine Corps pilot training and, with the outbreak of WW II, was assigned to fly Grumman F4Fs with Fighting Squadron 121. Between 9 October and 19 November 1942, General Foss shot down 23 Japanese aircraft over Guadalcanal and three more on 15 January 1943. On 25 January, he led a mixed squadron of 12 F4F and P-38 fighters and drove off a much larger force of Japanese bombers; four of the bombers went down and none of the others were able to reach their targets.
In May 1943, Joe Foss, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his exploits. Discharged after the war as a major, General Foss returned to South Dakota and helped organize the state Air National Guard. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1953 and became Chief of Staff, South Dakota Air National Guard. In 1954, General Foss was elected Governor of South Dakota and served two terms. In 1960, he was named the first Commissioner of the newly organized American Football League. He later became Director of Public Affairs for KLM Airlines and, today, is the International Chairman of the "Here's Life, World." General Foss is past President and Chairman of the Board of the Air Force Association. He was selected in 1943 as one of the "Ten Most Outstanding Young Men in the United States."
The painting shows General Foss in his F4F Wildcat shooting down a Japanese Zero over Guadalcanal. In the 63 days that General Foss shot down 26 enemy aircraft, he was forced to make three dead-stick landings on Henderson Field and was himself shot down over the island of Malaila.