Dedicated to the “Cactus Air Force”, the painting pays tribute to the wonderful USMC ace Joe Foss. Joe’s 20th air combat victory was an Imperial Japanese Navy G4M Betty Bomber, claimed on 12th November 1942 during the fight for Guadalcanal, whilst he was flying an F4F Wildcat.
The Japanese sent in 16 Betty Bombers and 30 covering Zeroes to attack American transports full of infantry. Joe Foss and his Wildcats were flying a combat air patrol as top cover and dived headlong into the attackers, flying right down to the Betty Bombers on the deck.
Showing his aggressive close-in fighter tactics and uncanny gunnery skills, Joe Foss hauled to within 100 yards of the nearest bomber and fired at the starboard engine, which spouted flame.
The G4M tried a water landing, caught a wingtip and tumbled into the sea.
The painting captures the moment that the stricken Betty Bomber struggled to keep airborne and the Wildcat soared away, victory assured. This makes a wonderfully striking composition.
Captain Joe Foss was later credited with 26 aerial victories and became the first Marine Corps fighter pilot to win the Medal of Honor.
Copyright Image and Text Simon W. Atack