Marine Heroes #1 - Joe "Smokey Joe" Foss
Rank - Brigadier General
Hometown - Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Foss' Flying Circus checked in. All systems go and one by one the Wildcats took to the sky. The enemy was tough, experienced and deadly. They were out there somewhere, high over the Pacific, looking to harm America's fleet and push forward to the west coast. It was a sortie like any other, one mission among hundreds, thousands. But it was a first for Joe. It was October, 1942 and the air at home would be crisp and cool, Joe reflected as he checked his air speed. Guadalcanal, though, was much further south than Sioux Falls, so the air outside, far below, was still warm and acrid with the stench of long combat.
They were sent to relieve another air group which had been engaged over the skies of Guadalcanal for months. VMF-121 was there to see the job done. Joe was ready.
Smokey Joe saw a glint of sunlight shimmering faintly in the distance, enemy planes. Coming in fast. Zeroes, Japan's most deadly aerial weapon, light but maneuverable and notoriously hard to kiss with machine gun fire. The Flying Circus broke formation on his command and began a complex maneuver to flank the foe. The experienced enemy airmen knew what to expect and countered with their own aeronautics.
Soon it was chaos, smoke, and gunfire. The radio chattered back and forth, his wingmen holding their own. Zeroes darted all around and Joe deftly dodged deadly cannon and machine gun fire. The smoking trails of rockets lingered in the air. Static and fuzz, then Joe heard, "there's one on your six!"
Joe did a figure 8 and juked the Zero on his tail. He saw a bullet wiz by his cockpit, mere inches from the glass. He looped behind the Zero and for a split second had the red sun of Japan in his crosshairs.
The enemy scattered, but then Joe noticed that his plane was in dire straights. He was shot up bad. He swung around and gave orders to head home. The first combat mission of Guadalcanal and his engine was dying. "Farm boys, my engine's dying!" he shouted into his radio.
Then he saw it. Three of the enemy were closing from a distance on his tail.
He raced back to the airfield. His engines were dead in the air so he sacrificed altitude and jettisoned his fuel to keep ahead of the Zeroes. They were closing, their shots ringing closer. His squadron kept them at bay as land and sea raced closer. His heart was pounding in his chest, another shot and his Wildcat was likely to bust apart. The airfield was close, then closer.
He dropped his wheels and prepared to land, boring ahead at breakneck speed. The enemies on his tail were thankfully occupied with his brothers in arms as he touched down on the tarmac, traveling full speed.
This was to be the first of many such engagements. In the following months Joe racked up 25 more confirmed kills and his Flying Circus 72 in total. He was a terror of the skies and was awarded the Medal of Honor by FDR himself after Guadalcanal was seen through.
He later became a Republican Congressman and then governor of South Dakota and then Commissioner of the American Football League. He hosted ABC's "The American Sprotsman" for three years and was later president of the NRA for two terms. Smokey Joe lead a full and prosperous life that still honors America and the Marine Corps. OORAH!
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