2007 HOF Award Recipient
Joseph J. Foster, III
Joseph J. Foster, III
The oldest of four children, Joseph J. Foster III was raised in Albany, New York, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from Indiana Institute of Technology in 1950. He built his first model airplane at age ten, and that began his lifelong love of aviation. Joe says everything he learned about wind tunnel testing was because of the great education he received from Professor Ben Kemp and Indiana Tech. Joe has been a faithful supporter of Indiana Tech and established a scholarship in 2000 to help those who have the potential to make things better in the world. Joe and his first wife, Ruth (deceased), raised five boys and two girls. He married his present wife, Dotty, in 1991, and they are both docents at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Between them, they have nine children, eighteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
In college Joe worked as an airplane mechanic for $.50 an hour and, in January 1951 he enlisted in the Air Force. After basic training, he worked for a German scientist at Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio where he operated the wind tunnel at the Air Force Institute of Technology.
In January 1954 Joe graduated from pilot training in Texas. He went on to fly student navigators, became a test pilot, and learned to fly jet aircraft while in Japan in 1959. During 1961 he helped build the Titan I and Titan II underground ICBM missile launch facilities. From 1963 to 1966 he flew world-wide with the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) as Douglas C-133 "Cargo master" Aircraft Commander. At the time it was the world’s largest airplane.
In March 1965 he wrote a special letter volunteering for flying duty in Vietnam. After Combat Crew Training in Florida and Jungle Survival School in the Philippines, Joe arrived at Saigon, South Vietnam, in July 1966. Joe and his crew flew 1,165 combat support sorties, flying into jungle airstrips, abandoned WWII airfields, sometimes landing on dirt roads often without knowing if it was safe to land there. They relocated Special Forces and mercenary militia and flew out the wounded soldiers.
On one occasion he flew actress Martha Rae to an isolated Special Forces camp to entertain the troops. She was dressed in her Army Lieutenant Colonel jungle fatigues and gave Joe a great big Winston Churchill style "thumbs up" as she left the airplane.
Joe was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice for his courageous and precise flying expertise in the face of danger. Joe says, "I was brought up as a 'family, God, and country' kid. I volunteered for Vietnam because I felt it was important to keep South Vietnam free of communism. It didn’t work out that way. But flying in Vietnam was the best year I ever spent flying. Every day I felt I was 'helping' someone. And, nothing I did was heroic. I was just another ‘Provider’ pilot doing his job."
Joe has flown 19 different types of prop/turboprop/and jet airplanes and logged 5,750 hours in the air. He retired as Lieutenant Colonel in January 1979 with 28 years of Air Force service. After retirement he worked in project management at several aerospace companies developing the MX ICBM, the B-1B Bomber, and C-17 transport.