b. 25/03/1889 Wichita, Kansas. d. 30/01/1972 Virginia Beach, Virginia.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 21-22/04/1914 Veracruz, Mexico.
Paul F. Foster was born on March 25, 1889, in Wichita, Kansas, the son of Congregational minister Festus Foster and Lillian C. Howe. Due to his father’s work with the Congregationalists, he spent his childhood successively in Kansas, Utah, Oklahoma, and Idaho. Foster graduated from the high school and entered the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, where he spent one year before received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, by Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho in summer 1907.
While at the Academy, Foster was active as Business Manager of the Lucky Bag, a Naval Academy yearbook dedicated to the graduating classes and reached the rank of cadet-commander. While in this rank he served as commander of Midshipmen Battalion.
Among his classmates were several future distinguished flag officers including four-star admirals Oscar C. Badger, John W. Reeves Jr.; vice admirals Bernhard H. Bieri, Calvin H. Cobb, Morton Deyo, Robert M. Griffin, Edward Hanson, Howard F. Kingman, Frank J. Lowry, Oliver M. Read; rear admirals Daniel J. Callaghan, Theodore E. Chandler, Robert H. English, George M. Lowry, and Harry L. Merring.
He graduated as Passed Midshipman with Bachelor of Science degree in June 1911 and was attached to the armored cruiser Washington, operating in the Caribbean. Foster served aboard Washington until December that year, when he was transferred to the newly commissioned battleship Utah under Captain William S. Benson. He took part in the patrol cruises with the Atlantic Fleet and was commissioned Ensign on July 10, 1911.
In early 1914 during the Mexican Revolution, the United States decided to intervene in the fighting. While en route to Mexico on April 16, Utah was ordered to intercept the German-flagged steamer SS Ypiranga, which was carrying arms to the Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta. Ypiranga‘s arrival in Veracruz prompted the United States to occupy the city and Foster at the head of his company led his sailors ashore during the fighting April 21–22, 1914. For distinguished conduct in battle, he was decorated with the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest and most-prestigious decoration.
Following his return to the United States in November 1914, Foster was ordered to the Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, for submarine instruction. He completed the instruction in early 1915 and was attached to the submarine G-4, the experimental vessel of Italian design under command of Lieutenant Ernest D. McWhorter. Foster served as his executive officer and participated in maneuvers with the submarine flotilla off Newport, Rhode Island, and was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on March 7, 1915. He received the Medal of Honor award from McWhorter at the New York Naval Shipyard on January 24, 1916.
Foster relieved McWhorter as commanding officer of the submarine in February 1916 and led her during the maneuvers with Atlantic Fleet off Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. He also transported Elmer A. Sperry to try out his gyroscopic ship stabilizer, but when the United States entered the War in April 1917, Foster travelled to Washington, D.C., where he approached his former commanding officer from Utah, now Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William S. Benson, and requested to be assigned to the war zone in Europe. But Benson declined to interfere in personnel matters and turned down Foster’s request.
He subsequently return to command of the submarine G-4 and conducted further experiments with professors from Cornell University. During his return from one experiment, Foster landed his submarine so skillfully, that he impressed Captain Thomas C. Hart, chief of staff to the commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet and he requested Foster to be assigned to his command.
Foster transferred to his flagship, submarine tender Bushnell and was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant on July 1, 1917. He served first as ship’s navigator under Commander Wilhelm L. Friedell and took part in the transports of submarines to Azores in early autumn 1917. Foster was later appointed an aide to Captain Hart and participated in the patrols in Atlantic, before he was appointed commanding officer of submarine L-2 in March 1918.
He took part in patrols to Bishop Rock Lighthouse off the England coast and Bantry Bay, Ireland and later received orders for patrol to Bay of Biscay, north of Bordeaux. During the patrol in mid-July 1918, Foster’s submarine had one of his engines damaged and was ordered back to submarine base at Bantry Bay. On her return, Foster’s crew spotted German SM UB-65 near Fastnet Rock, the U.S. submarine L-2 observed what Foster first took to be a buoy on the horizon. Moving closer, he found that it was actually a German submarine, only later to be identified as UB-65. It was listing heavily on the water’s surface, seemingly disabled. Forster guided his sub around it, hoping to line up a torpedo shot. But before he could do so, the crippled vessel was torn apart by a huge explosion. UB-65 rose up on its bows and sank. There were no survivors and no bodies were ever recovered.
Foster was subsequently decorated with the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his part in the sinking of enemy submarine. It was one of the three enemy submarines officially listed as sunk by the U.S. Navy. He was also promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant commander on July 1, 1918.
Following the Armistice, Foster was transferred to the staff of Commander, Division 2, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet and served under Harold M. Bemis until late 1920, when he joined protected cruiser San Francisco under Captain Henry E. Lackey. He participated in the patrols in west Atlantic and the Caribbean and was transferred to the Navy Recruiting Bureau in New York City in July 1921.
In April 1924, Foster was ordered to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for duty in connection with fitting out of light cruiser Trenton and upon her commissioning, he was appointed ship’s Engineer officer under Captain Edward C. Kalbfus. Foster took part in the shakedown cruise to the Mediterranean Sea and Port Said, Egypt; Aden, Arabia; and Bushehr, Persia, where took on board the remains of Vice Consul Robert Imbrie, who was assassinated.
By the end of October 1924, Trenton was conducting gunnery drills off the Virginia Capes near Norfolk, but powder bags in her forward turret exploded, killing or injuring every member of the gun crew. Noting the difficulties of rescuing the men in the turret through the access door, or of extinguishing the fire from the forecastle, and with total disregard for his own safety, Foster entered the turret from the upper handling rooms, took the fire hose which was passed to him from without and extinguished the fire in the turret and in the clothing of the members of the crew. For this act of valor, he was decorated with the Navy Cross.
The Trenton was repaired shortly thereafter and returned to patrols along the East Coast of the United States. She was later attached to the Scouting Fleet off Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and took part in gunnery exercises off the Panama Canal Zone. Foster was detached in July 1927 and ordered back to New York City, where he was attached to the headquarters of Third Naval District under Rear admiral Charles P. Plunkett.
At the beginning of Great Depression, Foster resigned from active duty at his own request in March 1929 and was active in various civilian organizations, some directly involved with U.S. Military functions. In 1941, Foster surveyed resources of the Galapagos Islands for the Pacific Development Company. He remained a member of the United States Naval Reserve and received Naval Reserve Medal for 10 years of service with the reserves.
Following the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into World War II, Foster was recalled to active duty with the rank of commander in the Naval Reserve and was tasked directly by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to conduct special naval inspections. One of his first mission was to conduct investigation in the Panama Canal Zone following the series of complaints from the Army’s Lieutenant General Daniel Van Voorhis, commander of Caribbean Defense Command on Army-Navy cooperation.
Following his second retirement from the Navy, Foster assumed job as vice president, Mandel Brothers, Inc., a department store company in Chicago, Illinois, and served in this capacity until late 1950. He then worked for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Washington, D.C., until June 1954, when was appointed special assistant to general manager for international activities, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which was established to foster and control the peacetime development of atomic science and technology.
Foster is promoted to acting general manager of the commission in July 1957 and held that assignment until June of the following year. He then resumed his job as special assistant to general manager and remained in that capacity until February 1959. For his service with the Atomic Energy Commission, he was decorated with the AEC Distinguished Service Award.
One month later, Foster is appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the capacity of Permanent U.S. Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. While in this capacity he participated in Fourth General Conference in Vienna, Austria, in the early 1960s and had the opportunity to meet Pope John XXIII.
Foster retired in April 1961 and settled in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he died at his home on January 30, 1972, aged 82. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, and his wife, Isabelle De La Vicendiere Lowe (1892–1981) is buried beside him. They had together one son, Paul. The Spruance-class destroyer USS Paul F. Foster was named in his honor in 1976.
For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. In both days’ fighting at the head of his company, Ens. Foster was eminent and conspicuous in his conduct, leading his men with skill and courage.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
SECTION 5, LOT 106
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.