Nelsen Williamsburg


John William Foss

February 13, 1933April 25, 2020

John W. Foss passed away on April 25, 2020. Born in Hutchinson, Minnesota on February 13, 1933, he grew up in a large family with nine siblings in Litchfield, Minnesota. John was the 4th child of Peter and Mary Foss.

His remarkable military career began when he enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard's 136th Infantry Regiment in April 1950. A year later, he transferred to active duty as an infantryman, receiving an appointment to the United States Military Academy. He graduated in 1956 and was commissioned in the infantry in 1956.

While at Ft. Benning for Infantry and Ranger training, he met his beloved wife Gloria, who preceded him in passing in 2016. They married in 1957 and shortly after, began their first of many overseas tours in Germany, where they had their first child, John Junior. Foss served as a platoon leader in the 504th and 187th Infantry Regiments in both Germany and Lebanon. On return to the states, he became a Ranger instructor at Ft. Benning, where they had their second child, Kevin.

He then became an instructor at West Point and was selected as the first exchange instructor to the Royal Military Academy in the England. Their daughter Julia was born there.

He has held a variety of command and staff positions. His overseas tours include four in Europe and four in Asia. He commanded a rifle company in the 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry in Korea. He served two combat tours in Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division as the Operations Officer, 2nd Brigade and as the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry where he served in the Central Highlands in forward bases. His bravery and sense of duty led him to actively conduct operations, and led to numerous awards, including Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, and awards from the Republic of Viet Nam. His commands include the 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division; the United States Army Infantry School and Fort Benning; the 82nd Airborne Division; the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. His commands at Ft. Bragg were among his favorite, as he could connect with the troops and participate in hundreds of military jumps. Before retirement, he became Commanding General, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). His promotion to four-star made him only the third person in the Army to rise from private to General.

He also served as the G-3 of III Corps; Chief of the Joint Military Advisory Group, Manila, Philippines; Commanding General, Seventh Army Training Command in Germany; the U.S. Army Chief of Infantry; and the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, Department of the Army.

His awards include the Army Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Clusters, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross and many other U.S. and allied awards. He also earned the Ranger Tab, Expert Infantryman Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge with over 300 jumps, and the Army Staff Identification and Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badges. He was awarded parachute badges from the United Kingdom, Philippines, Honduras, and Egypt.

He retired from the Army in 1991 and lived in Williamsburg, Virginia. In retirement Foss had been Chairman of the Commission on the U.S. Army Reserve Command, served as a consultant to various defense industries, been on the Board of Advisors to both the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and the National Infantry Foundation, Senior Mentor to Senior Joint Warfighting Course, Armed Forces Staff College and is a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Land Warfare of the Association of the United States Army. In 1995 was inducted to the US Army Ranger Hall of Fame. In September 2009, Foss was awarded the Doughboy Award by the National Infantry Association. In May 2013, Foss was selected and awarded as a Distinguished Graduate at West Point.

He will be remembered fondly by his children as a man who could be brought to tears of laughter while reading to them about Piglet and the heffalump, who would watch old cartoons with them when he could, and for his deadpan sense of humor. His love of reading was passed to all his children, as was his love of dogs. The house was almost never without at least one dog, and when hospitalized in 2016 his highlight was a visit from his dog Susie. He also had a love for travel and history, taking the family to many places through the years, granting them opportunities to see places few have the fortune to go. After his retirement he would do the same for his grandchildren, reading to them, going fishing, enjoying shows with them and taking them to Busch Gardens frequently.

He is survived by his three sisters, Theresa O’Brian of Minneapolis, MN, Bernadette Hughes of St. Paul, MN, and Claire Bauer of St. Joseph, MN. His children, John Foss of Shelbyville, KY, Kevin Foss of Portsmouth, VA and Julia Dunn of Virginia Beach, and by his three grandchildren, Bryana Barber of Orlando, FL, Kyla Foss and Brady Dunn of Virginia Beach.

Interment will take place at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date. Condolences may be shared at



John William Foss

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Jerome Watson

May 11, 2020

I have many good memories of Gen Foss. He was a gentleman, mentor and leader of the highest order. As the Chief of Joint Exercises, I was briefing him on an upcoming major exercise. As we briefed the various milestones, he asked me what "LDGI "stood for? I said 'Last Day for Good Ideas,' that quickly gave me a nod of approval and his genuine understanding. I still cherish a signed photo of him, favorably commenting on his impression of making two parachute jumps with me. The first when I was his jumpmaster and for other key commanders in the 82d Airborne. I had the opportunity to send him out of a helicopter on a static line jump from 10,000 feet - an absolute rarity . The second was when LTG Foss jumped with my battalion into Fort Stewart on an EDRE in a massive rain storm. My condolences to his family. The Army and the Nation has lost a great American. RIP.

Jack Trotter

May 11, 2020

I had the great good fortune to serve with General Foss at JUSMAG-Philippines from 1980-1981. He was the consummate professional, generous with his advice to a very junior major (me), and always willing to listen. He and his wife, Gloria, set such a collegial atmosphere within the organization that we always wanted to be around them. Many years later, I had the opportunity to brief him at Ft Gordon, GA. As soon as he walked into the room, he saw me, asked about my wife, by name, and we spent several minutes reminiscing, much to the chagrin of other senior officers in the room. He was the leader that we all wanted to emulate, the boss we all wanted to please. To the family, please accept my sincerest condolences. Col (R) Jack Trotter

Eliana Hofer

May 10, 2020

I was so sorry to learn of the passing of General Foss. As one of his caregivers, I always looked forward to spending time with him. He had an easy smile and gentle disposition. I enjoyed going to mass with him and taking Susie on walks together. I will remember him fondly. Please accept my sincerest condolences.
Eliana Hofer

Mary Kay Dineen

May 9, 2020

To the family of one of my favorite generals - may this fine man "Rest in Peace". I was fortunate to meet "General John" at the Kingsmill Sports Club. At that time there was a General Charles, General Tom, General John, General Mike and General Bill. We became friends and I morned with him through Gloria's illness and death. I enjoyed having him brag about the health of his knees after many wartime jumps from aircraft. I have missed seeing him over the past year. You can be proud of your dad/grandfather.


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