The Marine Corps Medal of Honor Recipients
Featuring Marine Medal of Honor Recipients From WWII-Korea-Viet Nam And Iraqi Freedom
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Rifleman with Company K, Third Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, 2 May 1945. Dug in with another Marine on the point of the perimeter defense after waging a furious assault against a strongly fortified Japanese position, Private First Class Foster and his comrade engaged in a fierce hand grenade duel with infiltrating enemy soldiers. Suddenly an enemy grenade landed beyond reach in the foxhole. Instantly diving on the deadly missile, Private First Class Foster absorbed the exploding charge in his own body, thereby protecting the other Marine from serious injury. Although mortally wounded as a result of his heroic action, he quickly rallied, handed his own remaining two grenades to his comrade and said, "Make them count." Stouthearted and indomitable, he had unhesitatingly relinquished his own chance of survival that his fellow Marine might carry on the relentless fight against a fanatic enemy, and his dauntless determination, cool decision and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon Private First Class Foster and in the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
President of the United States
William A. Foster was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on 17 February 1917. Following graduation from vocational high school, where he majored in machinist's subjects, he was employed as a planner and shaper at Cleveland's Star Machine and Tool Company.
A veteran of six year's service in the Ohio National Guard, the 166-pound lad, nearly six feet tall, was enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve through Selective Service on 1 April 1944. Shortly afterwards he left for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, where he received basic training.
In late September 1944, after intensive combat training at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California, he embarked for overseas duty on board the USS General C. G. Morton bound for the Russell Islands in the Solomon group. There he joined his regular unit-Company K, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division.
He landed with his unit on Okinawa on 1 April 1945, the first anniversary of his enlistment in the Marine Corps. In combat for the first time at Okinawa, PFC Foster performed an act of heroism on 2 May 1945 which earned for him the nation's highest military decoration-the Medal of Honor.
Dug in with another Marine, he and his comrade engaged in a fierce hand grenade duel with infiltrating enemy soldiers. When a Japanese grenade landed beyond reach in their foxhole, Private First Class Foster, with complete disregard for his personal safety, dove on it and absorbed its full explosion with his own body, thus protecting the other Marine from serious injury. When mortally wounded, he handed his two remaining grenades to his comrade and said, "Make them count…"
In the words of the accompanying citation, presented by President Harry S. Truman, "… he had unhesitatingly relinquished his own chance of survival that his fellow Marine might carry on the relentless fight against a fanatic enemy…"
On 19 August 1946, Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, presented the Medal of Honor to his parents in a ceremony at the City Hall in Cleveland. In addition to the Medal of Honor, PFC Foster was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart; Presidential Unit Citation with one star; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Private First Class Foster was initially interred in the 1st Marine Division cemetery on Okinawa. On 5 March 1949, his remains were reinterred in the Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland.