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American Ace

Joe Foss, Fighter Pilot

American Ace


$19.95, Paperback
ISBN: 9781941813379

"A true life military biography presented in a graphic novel format, and an inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "American Ace: Joe Foss, Fighter Pilot" with its immense appeal to World War II military historians and military aviation fans and is a unique and unreservedly recommended."—Midwest Book Reviews

American Ace is the South Dakota Historical Society's FIRST graphic biography. What is a graphic biography? It is a fully illustrated book that tells the story of or shares an episode from a real person's life. In this case, American Ace invites readers, ages 16 to 99, to learn about South Dakota Governor Joe Foss's experience during World War II. 

JOE FOSS_Cover_INT_final_OTP 114.jpgFrom the time he was four years old, Joseph Jacob “Joe” Foss (1915–2003) found flight fascinating. As an adolescent, he followed the career of flyer Charles Lindbergh and could hardly wait to get into the air himself. In college, he took private flying lessons, and as war broke out across Europe in 1939 and 1940, he joined the South Dakota National Guard, preparing himself for combat by earning more flight time on weekends. After graduation, he joined the United States Marines Corps’ flight training program. Finally, in 1942, Joe was ready to be a fighter pilot, just as he had always dreamed of being. But he was now twenty-six years old, and the military deemed him too old for combat. Instead, the Marine Corps assigned Joe to teach men eighteen to twenty-three years old how to fly.

Joe accepted his role but also volunteered for special assignments. He became an aerial reconnaissance photographer, hoping the job might lead him to the battle front. He pestered his superiors until he was allowed to take combat training in the Grumman F4F Wildcat, the carrier-based dogfighter of the Pacific theater. Still, he found himself stateside rather than at the front. He continued to volunteer for dangerous assignments, and his determination eventually won him a spot in a fighting unit just as the war in the Pacific heated up.

Joining the Marine Corps’ VMF-121 fighter squadron as executive officer, Capt. Joe Foss and his unit shipped out to Guadalcanal, code-named “Cactus,” in the Solomon Islands. They arrived in early October 1942, just weeks after the Allies had taken Henderson Field on Guadalcanal from the Japanese. By mid-October, Joe had shot down five enemy airplanes, which officially made him a flying ace. With his leadership and his pilots’ daredevil tactics, the VMF-121 became known as Foss’s Flying Circus, the heart of the Cactus Air Force. Shooting down a total of twenty-six enemy planes between October 10, 1942, and January 25, 1943, Foss became America’s Number One Ace and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his role in Guadalcanal. He was a hero known around the world for his prowess in the skies.

Using pen and ink, Hector Curriel draws readers into his subject’s triumphs and trials as Joe Foss overcomes difficult and dangerous situations. He is shot down twice, contracts malaria, and loses his friends and comrades in battle. American Ace places action at the forefront, using the escapades of Foss during World War II to showcase the experience of many fighter pilots, while highlighting the perseverance that made this man unique.

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