American culture has always been drawn toward superheroes, just look at the recent movie releases. With all this hero hype, we sometimes forget that heroes aren’t just supernatural fictional characters, but very real people with very real stories. One such hero is William Foster, a U.S. Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Okinawa. Keep reading to learn more about Foster and his heroic actions.
Born on February 17th 1915 in Garfield Heights, OH, Foster attended a vocational high school where he majored in machinist’s subjects. Shortly after graduating, he was employed as a shaper at Cleveland’s Star Machine and Tool Company. He was also a member of the Ohio National Guard for six years before being enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve through the selective service program in April 1944.
After receiving basic training in San Diego and intensive combat training at Camp Pendleton, Foster was sent overseas to the Russell Islands where he rejoined his usual unit (Company K, 3rd Battalion 1st Marines, 1st Marines Division). From there, Foster would find himself placed in one of the most legendary battles of WWII. On April 1st, 1945 (which happened to be Foster’s first anniversary of enlistment in the Marine Corps and Easter Sunday) Foster’s unit landed on the island of Okinawa, while the infamous battle was occurring. It was there that Foster would perform the act that would later earn him a Medal of Honor.
Foster and another marine were in the midst of an intense hand grenade duel with Japanese combats. Fighting from foxholes, an enemy grenade landed in Foster’s and fellow marines foxhole, and wasn’t within timely reach. Without any regard for his own safety, Foster leapt on the grenade, absorbing the full blow and saving his fellow solider. While Foster survived the initial impact, he passed away shortly after from wounds afflicted by the blast.
About a year later, on August 19th, 1946 the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Alexander A Vandegrift presented Foster’s parents with the Medal of Honor at Cleveland’s City Hall. Foster was originally buried at the 1st Marine Division Cemetery on Okinawa. However, in 1949 his remains were recovered and re interred in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH (Section 60, Lot 53, Grave 2) next to fellow Medal of Honor recipient John R Towle. (Read more about Towle here)
Being only 30 years old at the time of his death, Foster’s legacy lives on. One can see his name around the city of Garfield Heights, and a branch of the Garfield Heights public school system carries his name sake. It’s important to remember fallen heroes such as Foster, who gave everything for their country.
Post written by Katie Karpinski