By Jennifer Martin - email
After six days at Pelilu, only six men remained in James Foster's platoon. The 1st Marine Regiment was so terribly depleted, Foster and his men were relieved and allowed to leave the island. In the end, it would take Allied forces 30 days to secure Pelilu and the airfield the Marines fought so hard to secure.
"It never was used by the military. We had all of that waste of lives. It was absolutely ridiculous."
The 1st Marines regrouped, then took part in the invasion of Okinowa.
"There we used Higgins boats in our landing. And we were assigned to invade, and go ashore in the middle of the island and then to ahead and capture the northern half of the island first."
The operation was much larger than Pelilu, with more troops and more support.
"We advanced one day and we had two mountainous hills and we moved up into this depth. They opened up on us. We got pinned down and we got isolated and we had to dig in a perimeter defense and stayed in there six days. And they had to parachute in ammunition and food to us until we got some support help with tanks and all that.
Then we got word the army was having trouble on the other end. We went out and relieved them and moved about 2 1/2 miles the first day after we took over from them. My best buddy got killed while we were up in there."
He was part of a unit working alongside a tank to draw out the Japanese.
"I was terribly upset with that. But that was one way of finding where the enemy was located. You see, they were so well camoflaged, with their pillboxes. You just couldn't hardly find em. And they're sitting up there on a hillside and they're looking and waiting for you. They know you've got to move --you've got to expose yourself. And it made it very difficult and why we had as many casualties as we had."
It was in Okinowa, Foster's luck would run out.
"We were taking this large hill and we were about half way up. And the word came to me, I was squad leader at the time, that my men needed water. I jumped up without realizing what I was doing and I moved back a few yards and I said pass the word down we need water. And about that time a sniper got me. Went in right by my spine, came out by my navel. And that ended my campaign and my military career."
Foster was rushed to a field hospital. He had partial paralysis and spent time in hospitals in Guam and in the United States. He still has weakness in one of his legs. After he was discharged, he got married and went back to finish high school, then he went to college --and had a 39 year career in education.
"Unbelievable almost that I'm still here. I guess the good Lord was looking down and blessing me."
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