United States. A Purple Heart to Ensign Foster, USNR, KIA During Japanese Attack on USS De Haven, 1943

Item #AZ056


In bronze gilt with purple, red, white and green enamels, engraved "ENSIGN WILLIAM B. FOSTER USNR" on the reverse, measuring 35 mm (w) x 43.5 mm (h), original ribbon with brooch pinback, intact enamels, extremely fine. In its hardshelled "coffin-style" case of issue, wear evident on the exterior corners, case also near extremely fine. Accompanied by a Memorial Star Badge (silver United States Navy insignia, mounted to a sterling silver gilt star base, maker marked with the Hilborn and Hamburg eagle insignia and marked "STER + 1/20 10K" (Sterling Silver + 1/20 10K Gold) on the reverse, measuring a 30.5 mm (w) x 29 mm (h), horizontal pinback), plus a binder containing copies of his Service Records, assorted research papers, along with two reproduction of photographs showing his name on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Footnote: William Butcher Foster was born on February 22, 1915 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Charles S. Foster and Pauline B. Foster (nee Butcher). He attended New York University at night for six years, graduating with a degree in Business Administration in 1939. While at university, he was a member of the Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity, the Arch and Square Fraternity, and was a Class Officer for four years. He was also a member of the New York University Alumni Club (Executive Club) and a member of the YMCA. While at university, he worked as a Page, Rack Clerk, Clearance Clerk and Credit Man for National City Bank of New York, from 1933 to 1936. During the latter part of his university career and after graduation, he worked as an Accountant for the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey, from 1936 to 1941. Foster joined the United States Naval Reserve (103507) in February 1941 from New Jersey, naming his next-of-kin as his wife, Aline W. Foster of White Plains, New York and stating his religion as Protestant. He attended Radio School at Noroton Heights, Connecticut until July 1941, and then was detailed to sea duty as a Radioman Third Class, appointed on October 11, 1941. Foster later achieved the rank of Ensign and was assigned to the Fletcher-class destroyer USS De Haven (DD-469), the first Navy ship named for Lieutenant Edwin J. De Haven USN (1819-1865). USS De Haven was laid down by the Bath Iron Works Corporation at Bath, Maine on September 27, 1941 and launched on June 28, 1942 by Miss H. N. De Haven, granddaughter of Lieutenant De Haven. The ship was commissioned on September 21, 1942, with Commander Charles E. Tolman in command. USS De Haven sailed from Norfolk, Va. and reached Tongatapu, Tonga Islands, November 28, 1942, to escort a convoy of troopships to Guadalcanal, in order to relieve the Marines who had been there since the invasion landings in August. De Haven screened the transports off Guadalcanal from December 7 to 14, then sailed out of Espiritu Santo and Nouméa in the continuing Solomon Islands operations. She patrolled in the waters of the Southern Solomons to stop the "Tokyo Express", the nightly effort to supply the beleaguered Japanese troops still fighting on the invaded islands, and took part in two bombardments of Kolombangara island during January 1943. On February 1, 1943, USS De Haven screened six LCTs (landing craft, tank) and a seaplane tender establishing a beachhead at Maravovo on Guadalcanal. While escorting two of the landing craft back to their base in the afternoon, USS De Haven was warned of an impending air attack by Japanese aircraft supporting Operation Ke. She sighted nine unidentified planes and opened fire as six swung sharply toward her. She shot down three of these planes, but not before all six had dropped their bombs. USS De Haven was hit by three bombs and further damaged by a near miss. One bomb hit the superstructure squarely, killing the commanding officer instantly. All way was lost after the first hit and the ship began to settle rapidly, sinking by the bow and going under within minutes of the attack, about two miles east of Savo Island. One of the LCTs she had escorted rescued the survivors. USS De Haven lost 167 killed and 38 wounded and was the first Fletcher-class ship lost in the Second World War, having been in commission only 133 days. Ensign William Butcher Foster was serving aboard the USS De Haven (DD-469) on February 1, 1943 when it was attacked. He was initially declared "Missing in Action", then declared "Killed in Action", as "his remains could not be recovered". He is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing, at Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City, Metro Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines.