Rodney Shelton Foss

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Rodney Shelton Foss
Born (1919-08-17)August 17, 1919
Monticello, Arkansas
Died December 7, 1941(1941-12-07) (aged 22)
Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station, Oahu, Hawaii
Buried at Oakland Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1940–1941
Rank Ensign
Battles/wars Attack on Pearl Harbor
Awards Pacific Fleet medal, Purple Heart

Ensign Rodney Shelton Foss (May 8, 1919 – December 7, 1941) was a United States Navy officer during World War II. He was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor while stationed at Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station.

Early life[edit]

Ensign Foss was born in Monticello, Arkansas on May 8, 1919 to George and Linnie Shelton Foss in the home of his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Shelton.

The family moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where Rodney graduated from Pine Bluff High School. He attended the University of Arkansas and Louisiana State University before entering the military. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on September 5, 1940 and received training at Northwestern University in Chicago and was commissioned as an Ensign.

Military career[edit]

Ensign Foss was stationed to Naval Air station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, assigned to patrol squadron 11.[1] To prepare for a deployment, one of the VP-11 crews had worked the graveyard shift to install self-sealing fuel cells in the wings of PBY-5 aircraft 11-P4.[2] Foss was the graveyard shift duty officer when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor at 0752 hours, December 7, 1941. Ensign Foss was due to be relieved by the Sunday duty officer in about eight minutes just as Japanese aircraft began strafing the flight line occupied by VP-11 and VP-12 and the two rows of the squadrons' PBY aircraft lined up neatly along the ramp area between the hangar and the sea wall. Because they approached from the north, the Japanese arrived at NAS Kaneohe several minutes before the rest of the attack force reached Pearl Harbor, making the shots fired at Kaneohe the first fired in the attack.[2]

Ensign Foss was struck and killed instantly by a 20mm cannon shell during the first strafing run, making it highly probable that he was the first US casualty in the Pacific Theater. Excepting those Americans who volunteered to serve in allied military forces before the entry of the United States into the war, his would be the first combat death of the second world war. When the Sunday duty officer, Ensign Joe Smartt, arrived at the hangar to relieve Ensign Foss, he found Foss dead.[2]

His body was returned to Monticello and he is interred in Oakland Cemetery.

Awards and honors[edit]

He was posthumously awarded a Commendation, a Pacific Fleet medal, and a Purple Heart.

The Buckley-class destroyer escort, USS Foss (DE-59), was named in his honor. The ship was christened by his mother on April 13, 1943 at the shipyards in Hingham, Massachusetts.[3]


  1. ^ "Pearl Harbor Attack: Patrol Squadron (PBY) Eleven Action Report". Naval History and Heritage Command. United States Navy. Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  2. ^ a b c Poulos, George (August 2005). "Recollections of a Patrol Bomber Pilot". Sea Classics. Challenge Publications, Inc. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "FOSS". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. US Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 2010-07-22.