Natchez WWII veteran laid to rest
NATCHEZ — A Natchez veteran who fought in seven major battles of World War II was laid to rest on Monday.
Paul Foster, 97, died Friday, leaving behind three children, a brother, seven grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and countless other friends and relatives who loved him.
“There are many men and women who had an impact on dad’s life, who loved dad and I could not possibly mention them all but we are grateful to all of them,” said Paul’s youngest child and only daughter, Linda Foster.
“I was my daddy’s baby and he called me that. The boys never could catch on that if they would have been nicer to the baby they wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble,” Linda said with a laugh.
Linda said she pictures her dad singing joyously in heaven as she recited the chorus of an old hymn, ‘When We All Get to Heaven. When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we see Jesus we will be shouting and singing, victory.’ That is what daddy has done.”
Paul grew up in the community of Little Bahala, in Lincoln County, with 10 siblings during the Great Depression. He later worked at International Paper in Natchez and delivered newspapers for The Natchez Democrat for 28 years.
Paul’s only surviving sibling, Clayton Foster, said he was not sure how their parents, James Monroe Foster and Jessie Morris Foster, made it through the Depression with their large family.
Paul went to work at a young age and loved to fish on Little Bahala creek beginning at age 11, Clayton said.
“We were very close,” he said. “He always tried to live right and do the right thing. That was very important to us.”
Clayton, like his brother, is a veteran and served in the U.S. Air force.
Paul’s son, Glen Foster, said his dad enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 19 and served from 1942 to 1945 — two years and nine months, mostly in Europe.
He was a glider pilot, an infantryman in 80th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army and fought during the historic D-Day beach storm at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge.
“Dad would say, ‘I am not a perfect man. I am a saved man,’” Glen said.
Paul’s grandson, Jonathan Foster, said he could recall many stories his grandfather told, “of how some of the strongest men he knew didn’t have any sea legs.”
Jonathan studied his grandfather’s battle history extensively, including parts that Paul never wanted to talk about himself, he said.
“His first glider landing was at St. Mere-Eglise, France hours before the landings at Normandy. The ensuing battle is one experience he didn’t ever want to discuss or remember,” Jonathan said. Paul earned a Purple Heart for having been wounded in Holland when German panzer tanks invaded his unit’s position, Jonathan said.
“His sergeant woke him as they were clearing out as the last of the soldiers holding the position. I’ll paraphrase the Sergeants words as ‘Get out.’ He grabbed his rifle and followed the unit as everyone was exchanging fire. While they were falling back, he earned a Purple Heart after being knocked unconscious from a shockwave from one of the tank rounds hitting near him.” Jonathan said his grandfather also endured extreme frostbite after snow had fallen into his foxhole and froze around him, almost turning Paul into a human ice cube.
He was thawed and treated in a field hospital and was later part of the team that liberated a concentration camp and captured 150,000 Nazi soldiers 30 miles outside of Berlin.
Paul regarded himself not as a hero but as a patriot, Jonathan said.
“He has shared several stories of his experiences … and there are some he just couldn’t share and battled with them on some sleepless nights,” Jonathan said. “… Thankfully he no longer has those terrors. He never considered himself a hero, though I know we all do. He considered himself a patriot serving this country that he loved. He was a patriot indeed.”