Veterans History Project: James Foster (Part 1) - - Jackson, MS

Veterans History Project: James Foster (Part 1)

By Jennifer Martin - email

James Foster served with the marines in two of the major campaigns in the Pacific. In his own words, we'll hear his story from the bloody battle of Pelilu:

"I was inducted into the Marine Corp as a marine of October of 1943 and was later, after bootcamp, assigned to the 1st Marine Division. Our first stop was New Caledonia over in the Pacific for some jungle training. From there, we joined the 1st Marine Division up at the Russell Islands.

Later we were on our way up to Pelilu. We had been told in three days we'd be finished with that. It would be a short and sweet operation. We arrived on the LST ships. That morning, after all the shelling and 16 inch guns, strafing and bombing, it was just a solid sheet of black smoke coming off the island. They lifted the bombing for us to move in.

I was in the 3rd wave and all hell broke loose when we got about a yard away from the beach.  Because the Japanese had done an excellent job of zeroing in all their artillery, machine guns, mortars, so when we reached a certain point on our way in, they opened up and we had a number of direct hits on AmTracks. And of course all the men lost their lives. I was very fortunate. I made it to the beach, but that was as far as we got the 1st night.

We made very little progress the first day. The fire was so heavy from the enemy.  We lost 500 killed and wounded the 1st day, I believe it was.  We moved up to the edge of the air field and that's why we were there in the first place was they had an airfield there that the commanders thought would be needed in the invasion of the Phillipines. So we got up real close to the air field and then we all of a sudden the Japanese attacked you with their tanks. And here they was, right to the edge of where we were located and had it not been for our bazooka man there that day, I guess I wouldn't be here. He had a direct hit on that tank.  From there we finally took over the airfield and moved.

In all of this advancing & moving & struggling, we were getting killed and wounded to the point where I think by the second or third day, we were only... we had lost between 30 to 40 percent of our strength.  I had mortars hitting close enough to me from time to time, that I had the gunnery jacket caught on this side and was ripped off and I had another place where shrapnel had tore a part of my sleeve off, my canteen, a heavy piece of shrapnel knocked it off one day. I had some very close calls.

We were approaching this old, we called it Bloody Nose Ridge, it was the highest mountainous area on the island. And naturally, high ground is where the military always wants to be located. And they had well fortified this area and they were ready for us. We finally got up on the 5th day. And on the 5th day we lost our company commander. There were 6 of us left in our platoon. The rest was either killed or they were wounded. We did not have protection on the right or left where were. So what they did that night.. We had to lay up some coral around so high and large enough we each 6 of us could have our feet together and one looking in this direction in the night one this away and the other way around b/c we had no protection. I did not think I'd be alive the next morning and I don't think anybody else did in that foxhole with. But we made it."

For the conclusion of Mr. Foster's story, click here.

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