Paul Hellstrom Foster

Sergeant
H BTRY, 3RD BN, 12TH MARINES, 3RD MARDIV
United States Marine Corps
17 April 1939 - 14 October 1967
San Francisco, California
Panel 27E Line 108

3RD MARDIV 12TH MARINES
Medal of Honor

Purple Heart, Good Conduct, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
Paul H Foster

The database page for Paul Hellstrom Foster

REMEMBERED ACROSS THE YEARS

The President of the United States,
in the name of the Congress,
takes pride in presenting posthumously the

MEDAL OF HONOR

to

PAUL HELLSTROM FOSTER
Sergeant, United States Marine Corps

for service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an artillery liaison operations chief with the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines. In the early morning hours the 2d Battalion was occupying a defensive position which protected a bridge on the road leading from Con Thien to Cam Lo. Suddenly, the Marines' position came under a heavy volume of mortar and artillery fire, followed by an aggressive enemy ground assault. In the ensuing engagement, the hostile force penetrated the perimeter and brought a heavy concentration of small arms, automatic weapons, and rocket fire to bear on the battalion command post. Although his position in the fire support coordination center was dangerously exposed to enemy fire and he was wounded when an enemy hand grenade exploded near his position, SGT Foster resolutely continued to direct accurate mortar and artillery fire on the advancing North Vietnamese troops. As the attack continued, a hand grenade landed in the midst of SGT Foster and his 5 companions. Realizing the danger, he shouted a warning, threw his armored vest over the grenade, and unhesitatingly placed his body over the armored vest. When the grenade exploded, SGT Foster absorbed the entire blast with his body and was mortally wounded. His heroic actions undoubtedly saved his comrades from further injury or possible death. SGT Foster's courage, extraordinary heroism, and unfaltering devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Richard M. Nixon,
President of the United States of America,
presented the Medal of Honor to his family
at the White House on 20 June 1969.

Sergeant Paul H. Foster
is buried in Grave 4764, Section V,
Golden Gate National Cemetery,
San Francisco, California.

From a brother in combat,
John E Mongiove
mmemapopy@tampabay.rr.com
06 Dec 2002

A Note from The Virtual Wall

In the second week of October 1967 the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, relieved BLT 2/3 as the defense force for the recently built bridge north of Strongpoint C-2. The construction of the bridge had permitted the reopening of the vital road to Con Thien washed out by the heavy September rains. The battalion defended the bridge because the 3rd Marine Division was concerned that if the enemy destroyed the bridge they would cut the only supply line to Con Thien.

The defense of the bridge was no easy task for Lieutenant Colonel Hammond's battalion. Since its move north from Camp Evans on 11 September, constant combat around Con Thien had worn the battalion down from a "foxhole strength" of 952 to about 462. The 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines had great difficulty in manning all the defensive positions prepared by the departed full-strength BLT-2/3.

The defensive position around the bridge was divided into quadrants by virtue of the road, which ran roughly north and south, and the stream, which ran east and west. Golf Company had the northwest quadrant; Hotel Company was on the same side of the road but across the stream in the southwest quadrant. Fox Company was in the northeast; Echo Company in the southeast. The battalion command group set up beside the stream in Golf Company's area and near the center of the position.

At 0125 on 14 October, 25 artillery rounds, rockets, and 135-150 mortar rounds hit Hotel Company. An ambush squad posted in front of the company reported an enemy force moving toward it, and immediately took the advancing enemy under fire. The Marine squad leader notified his company that he had three casualties and that the enemy seriously outnumbered his squad. The company commander, Captain Arthur P. Brill, Jr., ordered the squad to pull back and, at the same time, called for night defensive fires to block the avenues of approach to his position. The battalion requested flare ships to illuminate the area. Using starlight scopes, sniper teams watched the enemy as they massed only 50 meters in front of the company. The snipers and two tanks attached to the company opened fire, forcing the North Vietnamese to start their assault prematurely. The rest of the Hotel Company held fire until the NVA troops reached a clearing 20 meters from the wire. Of the entire attacking unit, only two NVA soldiers reached the wire and Marines killed both as they tried to breach that obstacle.

The enemy withdrew, leaving bodies behind, but they were far from finished. At 0230, enemy mortars shelled Golf Company. Direct hits by RPGs destroyed a machine gun emplacement and several backup positions on the primary avenue of approach into the company position. The NVA force attacked through this break, overran the company command post, and killed the company commander, Captain Jack W. Phillips, and his forward observer. Three platoon leaders, two of whom had just arrived in Vietnam that morning, also died. The battalion sent its S-3A, Captain James W. McCarter, Jr., to replace Phillips, but enemy fire killed him before he reached Golf Company. During the confused, hand-to-hand combat some of the North Vietnamese fought their way within grenade range of the battalion command post in the center of the position.

In the command post, although wounded by a grenade, Sergeant Paul H. Foster, a member of the fire support coordination center, continued to direct mortar and artillery fire upon the enemy. Another grenade landed among a group of six Marines. Sergeant Foster threw his flak jacket over the grenade and jumped on top of the jacket. The grenade blast mortally wounded him, but this action saved his fellow Marines. Before the melee ended, the North Vietnamese killed or wounded the entire forward air control team. The enemy also killed the battalion medical chief, and wounded the fire support coordinator, headquarters commandant, and battalion sergeant major.

Lieutenant Colonel Hammond moved what was left of his command group to a better location within Hotel Company's position. He ordered Fox Company to move to Golf Company's right flank and counterattack to push the NVA forces out of the perimeter. Illumination and automatic weapons fire from "Puff," the AC-47 requested at the beginning of the fight and which arrived about 0330, aided the counterattack. By 0430, the enemy began retreating out of the position, pursued by Echo Company.

The next morning the 2nd Battalion reconsolidated and evacuated casualties. There were twenty-one dead (18 from 2/4 Marines) and two dozen or more wounded. The NVA lost at least 24 killed. That afternoon, Lieutenant General Cushman and Major General Hochmuth visited the bridge site. They granted a request from Lieutenant Colonel Hammond that the new bridge be named "Bastard's Bridge" to honor the 18 Marines of the 2nd Battalion who gave their lives in its defense. At 1400, Hammond's battalion turned over the bridge to Lieutenant Colonel Needham's 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines and then moved to Dong Ha where it assumed the mission of regimental reserve after 42 days of close combat.

The men killed in action at Bastard's Bridge were

  • H Btry, 3rd Bn, 12th Marines
    • 1stLt William F. Mullins, Short Hills, NJ
    • Sgt Paul H. Foster, San Francisco, CA (Medal of Honor)
    • Pfc Robert J. Araujo, New York, NY

  • G Co, 2nd Bn, 4th Marines
    • Capt Jack W. Phillips, Mission, KS (Silver Star)
    • 1stLt Charles Yaghoobian, Pawtucket, RI
    • 2ndLt Eric C. Egge, Hopkins, MN
    • LCpl John P. Avery, Elizabethton, TN
    • LCpl Duane J. Foss, Hastings, MN
    • LCpl Frank Foster, Meridian, MS
    • LCpl Phillip S. France, Baltimore, MD (Silver Star)
    • LCpl Donald A. Gehling, Grand Meadow, MN
    • LCpl Morris J. Sensat, Egan, LA
    • Pfc Robert D. Buchanan, Bristol, VA
    • Pfc Gary C. Griswold, Bethel, CT
    • Pfc David A. Hamilton, Springfield, OH (Silver Star)
    • Pfc William I. White, North Vandergrift, PA
    • Pfc Stephen R. Worley, West Monroe, LA

  • H&S Co, 2nd Bn, 4th Marines
    • Capt James W. McCarter, New Orleans, LA (Silver Star)
    • HM2 Robert E. Bardach, Arlington Heights, IL
    • HN John I. Higgins, Chula Vista, CA
    • HN Doyle G. King, Vinemont, AL (Bronze Star "V")
Description of the battle taken from
OPERATION KINGFISHER Report\


The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a brother in combat,
John E Mongiove
mmemapopy@tampabay.rr.com



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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 6 Dec 2002
Last updated 08/16/2006