Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
​PFC William A Foster

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS
WILLIAM A. FOSTER, USMCR
(DECEASED)

Click here for a higher resolution photo.

Medal of Honor Citation

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.