RAPID RIVER - Navy Chief John William Foster, a veteran of World War II, will be honored during a Veteran of the Month ceremony Tuesday at the Walter W. Cole American Legion Post 301 of Rapid River.
Patterned after a national program established by the American Legion, a new Veteran of the Month is honored each month in a formal service at the Legion. The program will begin at 7:15 p.m.
Born March 26, 1918, in Escanaba, Foster was the son of William and Nana (Johnson) Foster. He graduated from Escanaba High School in 1936 and attended Michigan Technological University, RCA Institute and Naval Electronics School. A self-employed businessman, he established Foster Electronics in 1934 and provided nurse call, sound and fire alarm systems throughout the Upper Peninsula.
World War II veteran, John “Jack” Foster, will be honored as September Veteran of the Month during a ceremony held in his honor at the Walter W.?Cole American Legion Post 301 in Rapid River on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.
Foster entered military service on Aug. 1, 1942, and attended school in Chicago and Treasure Island, Calif., before being to sent to Brooklyn, N.Y., where he boarded the Naval communications ship, USS Appalachian. The ship carried the latest in electronic equipment and served as a flagship for amphibious convoys during operations in the Pacific. Foster remained on the ship as crew chief in charge of the electronics department until after the Japanese surrender in September 1945. During the ship's service in the South Pacific, the invasion of Guam was the responsibility of Read Admiral Conolly, who was the flag officer on board. The ship went to Guam with the heavy bombardment group of battleships, carriers, etc., several weeks before the actual landing. The USS Appalachian also followed immediately behind the ship carrying Gen. Douglas McArthur when the landing was made at Leyte in the Philippine Islands.
For his service as crew chief onboard the USS Appalachian, Foster received a Naval commendation for outstanding performance in that capacity. The citation, issued by Adm. R.L. Conolly, reads:
"While serving aboard the flagship of this command, you have participated in amphibious operations at at Roi-Namur, Guam, Leyte, and Lingayen, and in the occupation of Northern Japan at Aomori. Your performance of duty while acting as chief in charge of the flagship technicians during these operations was highly outstanding. Your technical ability and untiring efforts have contributed materially toward keeping the multitude of electronic equipment aboard the flagship operating efficiently. In addition, you have displayed exceptional skill in the repair and maintenance of radar equipment."
Himself describing the invasion of Guam, Foster wrote in his personal notes:
"During one night, while on the way to Guam, 'General Headquarters' sounded as a large group of unidentified planes had been spotted coming from the direction of Guam. My station was on the admiral's bridge, watching over the radar and radio equipment there, so I had a 'ringside seat' of the activity. Admiral Conolly was a very low key man, always appearing informal and relaxed, but not that night! Everyone watched with anxiety as the group of planes headed directly for our large convoy, passed overhead, and continued in the direction of Japan. When the actual landing was made on Guam, no resistance was encountered from the many gun emplacements which were on the bluff overlooking the harbor until the Marines started up their tanks, when the Japanese finally opened fire. They had been fully manned, but were awaiting orders from their officers who had been blown back to Japan in the group of planes which passed directly over our convoy."
In addition to the Naval Commendation, Foster was awarded the American Theatre of Operation Asiatic-Pacific Medal with four Stars and Philippine Liberation Medal with two Stars.
He was discharged from the military on Oct. 27, 1945.
Returning to his electronic business, the veteran worked as a radio consultant to the Daily Press, then as chief engineer for WDBC during construction of the station's facility. He was also instrumental in construction of WLUK-TV, which began in Marinette as Channel 11, serving the Upper Peninsula as well, and then the development of the WLUC-TV in Marquette. He also worked with the development of WFRV-TV in Green Bay.
Foster also provided sound service for the U.P. State Fair for 50 years.
John "Jack" Foster was married to the former Catherine Green of Daggett on Sept. 20, 1947, in Daggett, and the couple became parents of three daughters, Kristin, Ellen and Ann.
A well-known musician in the area, Foster played the cello, piano and organ. He also played with the Escanaba String Ensemble and was organist at Kiwanis Pancake Days for many years and service as pianist for the Escanaba Noon Kiwanis of which he was along-time member. He also served a term as District Musician for the U.P.-Wisconsin District of Kiwanis. He was presented with the "Unsung Hero" Award by the Golden K Kiwanis a short time before his death in 1997.
As a local historian, Foster was a contributing reporter for the Delta County Historian publication of the Delta County Historical Society. He was also a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church and an amateur radio operator (W8ZMQ) and honorary member of the Delta County Amateur Society and the Quarter Century Wireless Association.
The veteran died on July 28, 1997, at OSF St. Francis Hospital. He is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Escanaba. In addition to his wife and daughters, Kristin (David) Hires of Midland, Texas, Ellen (Gary) Rizner of Holland, and Ann (Roger) Tembreull of Gladstone, Foster is also survived by four grandchildren, a sister, Bonnie J. Terrio of Manchester, Conn., and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by an infant son, William John, and two sisters, Alice and Litta.