Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

December 31, 2015

Carl Foster, UCM Public Relations Legend Has Passed, PT 109 Sailor With John F. Kennedy

PT-109 crewman, UCM PR founder, Foster, dead at 93
This colorized photograph shows a World War II-vintage PT boat of the type Lt. John F. Kennedy and radioman Carl Foster served on in the Pacific.

Lt. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, PT 109
Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Carl Foster Link daily star journal
Warrensburg – A man who served with Lt. John F. Kennedy aboard the PT 109 during World War II, who founded the University of Central Missouri’s public relations department and who became a thoughtful and prolific contributor to The Daily Star-Journal’s “Letters to the Editor,” Carl Foster, 93, Warrensburg, died Monday at Western Missouri Medical Center.
“He had an illustrious history and was a Rotarian for many, many years and lived a well-done life,” Foster’s fellow Rotarian and friend, Mark Pearce, said Tuesday while announcing Foster’s death at a club meeting.
THE WAR YEARS The PT 109 would become the most famous patrol boat in naval history, but while scraping barnacles from her hull on a steamy Pacific island, Foster called her anything but a lady, he said in 2013.
Foster said he joined the Navy to fight after Pearl Harbor, but wound up on an isle measuring about 6/10ths of a mile wide in the Solomon Islands where he painted the boat officers used for “taxi service.” Foster described Kennedy as a good young skipper.
“He was first class. I was impressed with the fact that he was extremely knowledgeable about things like navigation and boat handling – things like that. He was a very friendly, very agreeable young man.”
Foster guessed the Navy did not want the son of the nation’s wealthy ambassador to Great Britain placed in harm’s way and that is why the boat acted as a sea-faring taxi before Foster moved to the PT 157 in hopes of seeing combat.
PT 157
In a case of irony, about a week after moving to the PT 157, Foster said the PT 109 and two other PT boats went on night patrol in Blackett Strait. The PT boats ran afoul of the destroyer Amagiri, which came out of fog and darkness, essentially running over and splitting the PT 109 in half.
“They got hit and caught on fire and everybody went over the side. Eventually half of the boat stayed above water and they got them back aboard, and they sat there fully expecting to be rescued. The other two PTs turned tail and ran. ... They both came back and reported no survivors – Kennedy and all hands lost, and that was their excuse for leaving the area.”
The collision claimed the lives of Andrew Kirksey and Harold Marney. What happened next would help provide the foundation for a political career that led Kennedy to the presidency 17 years later.
“I have nothing but respect for him. Any of the crew members who were with him on the 109 will tell you – and I remember talking with Mickey McGuire – that he truly saved their lives. … A couple guys are wounded. A couple guys couldn’t swim very well. … (Kennedy took one man’s) life jacket straps in his teeth and towed the guy to the beach, and got everybody there, and kept the crew together.”
Foster, who wanted so desperately to see action, missed an engagement that became a well-known part of Navy history, including a Hollywood film. In contrast, he described the most memorable “action” he saw on the PT 157, which he called the Battle of the Latrines: “On New Year’s Eve we’d been saving up all of the hooch – we were making our own. We were actually using a torpedo and distilling what was coming out of there, and it was like 180-proof alcohol.”
Everyone on the PT 157 drank on their night off.
“By 4 or 5 o’clock in the evening, we were as potted as any crew, including the skipper. The 154 boat, which was our sister boat, came struggling back. They were having engine problems and word came down – ‘Crank it up, ’cause you’ve got to go in their place.’ And we went out of the harbor that night hanging onto the railings, with 45s strapped on and (looking for a fight). It was crazy. ...
“Fortunately, we didn’t run into anybody, but in our frustration, because we didn’t have anybody to shoot, we saw along the beach all of these little piers coming out and there were these little houses that the Japanese had built as latrines. And three boats went in one at a time and just blew those outhouses to hell. We just had a ball. ...
“Now, that’s stupid. But the firepower of a torpedo boat broadside – you’ve got a 40mm gun on the stern, you’ve got twin 50s in the after turret, you’ve got a 20mm in the forward turret, you’ve got a 30mm machine gun in the cockpit and you’ve got a 37mm cannon and a 50mm machine gun on the bow. You fire that broadside at something and it is awesome. ...
“That was a fun night.”
PR CHIEF After the military, Foster went to work for organizations, including the National Chamber of Commerce, and in 1967 took his final civilian job as Central Missouri State College’s first public relations director.
“He built the whole PR operation from the ground floor up and he worked for several of the presidents at the university,” Ann Pearce, whom Foster hired from The Daily Star-Journal in 1985 to work in the PR office, said Tuesday. “He was just a tremendous man to work for. He was so intelligent, a PR man to the bone. He was truly a big teddy bear.”
Ann Pearce described Foster as a mentor to students and professional staff.
“He wanted the best for his people,” she said, and helped by providing a means for staff to keep facts straight. “Anything anybody wrote – whether it was a press release or a publication or a letter or whatever – would go into this ‘float file’ and it would go around from desk to desk to desk and everyone would sign off that they read everything. Everyone would know what was going on in the office and across the university. And the one thing you did not want to see when that float file came across your desk was Carl’s notes. If someone wrote something incorrect, in all capital letters he would write, ‘EGADS!’ You definitely did not want to get one of Carl’s ‘EGADS!’ notes on anything you wrote.”
Yes, Ann Pearce got one of those notes.
“Everyone got one of those from time to time,” she said, “but you definitely learned a lesson when you saw one of those.”
The college needed an identity and attitude adjustment, Foster said in 2013, and he provided both.
Regarding identity, the college had a stodgy appearance in terms of materials sent to prospective students.
“They had old-school publications. All of them were black and white. They didn’t even know that color printing had been invented,” Foster said.
With regard to attitude, the college sent off-putting messages to prospective students. A letter to one student, Foster’s wife, said, “Failure to comply with all of our rules and regulations will result in denial of your admission.”
Foster changed all such communication to present an inviting message, letting students know the college existed to serve them, not the other way around.
When Foster retired, he turned over the office to a co-worker and friend, John Inglish.
Evidence of Foster’s success as a mentor is found in the caliber of people who worked for Foster before they moved into other positions, Inglish said, and named names – Tim Doke, who worked for Dell and American Airlines, and now serves as senior vice president at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth; Dean Vogelaar, who managed public relations for the Kansas City Royals and now works as senior vice president and chief operating office for Mountain Valley Bank in Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and Bryan Burns, who worked for seven years as a senior vice president for Major League Baseball’s Office of the Commissioner, worked 17 years for ESPN and now is president and chief executive officer at The Forward Direction Group, a sports and entertainment consulting business.
“They learned the basics of the PR operation and honed their skills under Carl Foster,” Inglish said.
Foster also mentored Inglish.
“Probably the most important thing he ever taught me was a good PR man is neither seen nor heard, just felt,” Inglish said. “You have to take your ego out of whatever it is you’re doing and to do whatever’s necessary the make the organization you’re working for shine.”
Inglish described Foster as more than a friend.
“He was my hero,” Inglish said. “That’s how I feel about him.”

Foster stayed active in retirement, always welcomed at the Warrensburg Rotary Club, as a member of the Floyd A. Walker coffee klatch and as a man who e-mailed letters to the newspaper.
“We’ve enjoyed Carl’s letter for several years now,” Inglish said. “He relished being able to do that.”

Ann Pearce said Foster’s great talent as a writer could be seen in the many letters he wrote on a variety of topics.
Content from a few of this year’s letters, some displaying wry humor and others throwing punches, include:
• “Today, we have former New York Mayor Guiliani disparaging the president by claiming that he is ‘unpatriotic.’ What a jerk and what a shame. I don’t know about you, but I am putting the mayor on the same listening list I put Tokyo Rose on many years ago.”
• “Here our Missouri legislators are against anything that the president is for, who refuse to utilize the millions of dollars available in the Medicaid Expansion program, who consistently short-change education at all levels, who are frightened to death to even think about any kind of gun control, and who continue to pander to the big money spenders of our state.”
• “How many legislators does it take to screw in a light bulb? (Note: If their answer is three or more, this amounts to a committee which could never agree on whether light bulbs are screwed in clockwise or counter-clockwise.)”
• “When some of my friends ask me when I am going to write another letter to the editor, my response is usually, ‘When another legislator does something stupid.’”
Foster wrote frequently.
In his last letter, Dec. 19, Foster talked about wind farms and lawmakers: “My suggestion is pretty simple. Let’s put them in the heart of Jefferson City so they can join the hot air that is pumped out of there daily. However, as my dear old Mamma used to say, ‘An ill wind blows nobody no good.”’
Foster planned another letter a few days before he died.
“I saw him Christmas Eve and he told me that he was going to write one more, about dying,” Inglish said.
If Foster planned to email the letter, he never hit “send.”

From Tim Doke Tim Doke Link
Thanks, Carl Foster! I Learned From The Best
Posted August 13, 2010 

At 88 years young, my friend and mentor, Carl Foster, should be living a life of quiet retirement at his home in Warrensburg, Missouri. Not Carl. He is still ranting against injustice, intolerance and hypocrisy — a terrific role model if there ever was one!

Rather than do my own rant, I just could not resist sharing Carl’s priceless piece, “Get a Hobby. Write Letters to the Editor,” which I’ve attached and pasted below. Okay, it’s 2500 words, so a bit long — but well worth your getting a nice cup of coffee and investing 10 minutes of your time to see what the crisp 88-year-old mind has been doing to stay busy.

Thanks, Carl

Get a Hobby. Write Letters to the Editor
By Carl B. Foster

When you reach the age of 88 and have to give up deep sea diving or wild boar hunting or even golf because of your physical limitations, you really need a doable hobby to keep you occupied. Mine is writing letters to the editor.

Each morning I scan the morning newspaper, searching for news of some city, county, or state official trying to mold our society or of someone’s malicious attack on an innocent. If I find a suitable subject that causes me to start tingling all over, I begin drafting my “Letter to the Editor.”

I write letters for several reasons. To be honest, it’s because I love to see my name in print and I enjoy immensely the phone calls (both for and against my position) but more important, because I am a “do-gooder.” I hate injustice, intolerance, bigotry, and above all, hypocrites. These are all fodder for my letter writing hobby.

There are some basic rules about writing letters to the editor. Never attack an individual on a personal basis. Try injecting a bit of humor (no jokes, please) or my favorite technique – exaggeration.

Following is a letter to the editor which is an example of my way of dealing with an issue that I really feel strongly about:

When I was in the U.S. Navy on a PT boat in the South Pacific during World War II, we got pretty tired of eating out of a can. To get a bit of variety in our diet, we simply tossed a live hand grenade over the side. You would be surprised to see the variety of fresh seafood that came floating belly up!

I understand that the U.S. Congress is currently contemplating allowing the ban on assault rifles to expire soon. I personally see nothing wrong with helping hunters who don’t like to aim by allowing them to own and use their automatic weapons. But, in all fairness, for those of us who are not too great at fishing, how about approving the use of hand grenades – for fishing only, of course, After all, fair is fair.

Recently Missouri lawmakers wrestled with a “concealed carry” bill that would permit duly licensed individuals to be armed. Although certain facilities were excluded, such as schools, churches, and courthouses, one of our representatives proposed an amendment to the bill which would permit the carrying of guns on university campuses.

Here’s the way I reacted to his amendment:

There are many of us who are looking forward with great anticipation to the efforts of the Missouri legislature to enact a bill permitting concealed weapons on the UCM campus. We are thankful for the support of the NRA and its fine support of our legislators in this patriotic endeavor. If this measure passes, we can look forward to a rapid decline in rapes, robberies and murders on the UCM campus.

Basically, I liken the implementation of concealed weapons to a baseball game. If a batter thinks the pitcher is throwing a curve ball, it doesn’t really matter whether the ball actually curves or not. It is the batter’s perception that counts.

Same with concealed weapons. If we think that everyone may be carrying a concealed weapon, it has exactly the same effect.

However, just passing legislation allowing students to carry guns on campus is really not enough. Following are some suggestions on what would greatly enhance this legislation:

Because of the current economic recession, many students cannot afford to purchase a gun or the ammunition that goes with it. Only the richer students can take advantage of such a program. Therefore, I would propose that the university bookstore sell guns and ammunition (with student discounts) to help level the playing field. Which brings our athletic programs into play. I recall that last year the UCM Bookstore offered a percentage discount on everything based on the number of touchdowns made by the football team. If we have another winning football season, the cost of these guns and ammunition would be drastically reduced.

Female students would be particularly pleased over the program. They would feel much safer if they assumed that their date was carrying a concealed weapon. When I was a college student (many years ago) I dated a girl who wore a leather jacket, boots and a helmet and rode a motorcycle. I felt real safe when I was with her.

Think of the huge savings by eliminating the need for a campus security force. With students armed with guns the number of violent actions on campus should be reduced to almost nothing. Even the Pine Street problems would be greatly reduced.

The only added cost of a concealed weapons program that I can see would be the need to purchase bullet proof vests for faculty and administrators, especially during the weeks of mid-term tests and finals. Actually, students should see a dramatic improvement in their overall grades since most faculty would be reluctant to fail a gun-toting student.

I understand that one of our sister universities provides laptop computers to all incoming freshmen. How dumb is that? Guns can provide a lot more security than computers, especially when you read about all the sex that is being solicited via the internet.

It goes without saying that both the NRA and the Missouri legislature should be highly commended for their deep concerns over our well-being.

I should note here that there were some people in our community who thought I was nuts for advocating concealed weapons on our campuses.

My letter writing isn’t always in opposition to what I perceive to be an injustice. Following is my way of saying thanks to a bunch of nurses and doctors at our local hospital who were involved in a problem concerning the upgrading of staff and the deadlines for completing some educational programs.

Following a three-day involuntary visit to the Western Missouri Medical Center, I was really intrigued with the front page stories in The Star-Journal about the controversy over the plan by the hospital board to upgrade its staff.

I have no intention of commenting on something about which I have no knowledge. However, I do want to tell you that if you have to go to the hospital (which I did) you could not be in a better place than our local medical center.

During the three days of my “internment,” I was served by RN’s, LPN’s, MD’s, and a multitude of other professionals who all had specific patient responsibilities. I did not know (or care) who was what. All I wanted was for some tender loving care. And that I got, big time.

Although I was restricted to a liquid diet, the staff did wonders with a wide variety of delectable foods. I had many choices – lemon, raspberry, or lime jello and finally, a big bowl of beef and noodles. Someone in the kitchen took out all of the noodles and beef so all I got was the broth. It did increase my desire to get well quick.

Every time a new staff member entered the room, they asked me for my birth date. I thought at first that they wanted to be sure that I invited them to my next birthday party. Not so. It was a system to assure verification that you were who you were supposed to be.

Then, before any medical action was taken, the nurses read the numbers on the band around my wrist in much the same manner that a pilot and co-pilot go through their check list prior to take off. Again, this was to assure that they were providing the proper medical treatment to the right patient. I was really impressed.

For the record, the staff of the Western Missouri Medical Center is extremely well trained. Every one of them came into my room with a very positive manner and a “what do you need, how can I make your stay more comfortable,” and finally, “this is going to hurt and I am truly sorry, so please forgive me” attitude.

Even the lady who came in to clean up my room (after I really messed it up) was cheerful and wished me well, and she knew I would be glad to get back home, I knew that the administrators of the hospital had made patient comfort and service a top priority. This kind of treatment prevailed from the Emergency Room to admission to the hospital and further treatment.

Warrensburg is truly blessed with a state-of-the-art hospital.

Actually letters to the editor can really pay off. On my next visit to our local hospital, I was awarded a Good Conduct pin and all my medical records indicated that I was one of the Good Guys!

Another issue that really rattles my cage is the attempt to legislate morality. Following is my response to a number of legislative actions:

As a senior citizen who has been married to the same woman for 55 years, I believe that I have had enough lifetime experiences to warrant my suggestions and recommendations to our Missouri legislative bodies. In the interest of simplifying current statewide problems, here is what I propose:

1. Concerning the desire to strengthen the sanctity of marriage by banning single-sex marriages there is a much quicker and simpler solution. Pass a law which abolishes divorce. It follows that Missouri should also refuse to recognize divorces that have been executed in other states. We must do everything we can to protect the sanctity of the home.

2. Concerning the proposal to prohibit highway billboards that promote “Gentlemen’s Clubs” or other nefarious sex promotion outlets, I propose that the legislature pass a law prohibiting the use of billboards to publicize motels. We all know (so I am told) that there is much illicit sex going on in motels.

3. Concerning the need to cut state support of indigents and dependent children, I propose that the legislature simply declare a lowering of the poverty level, to say, an income of $5,000 or less per year. Just think of the savings that can be made in just reduced Medicaid and welfare alone. Of course, we could deny residency to anyone with less than a certain income, but this could get a bit complicated.

4. Concerning the need to spend money on maintaining roads and bridges, the legislature should set statewide speed limits at 30 miles per hour. At that speed, roads don’t need to be so good, and life will be much safer. Right?

We are blessed with a legislature that is determined to keep all of us on a high moral plane, and for this we are eternally grateful. I hope the above suggestions will contribute to the passing of laws that will keep Missourians morally straight.

While I normally write my letters with “tongue in cheek,” occasionally there is an issue that really ticks me off and I react accordingly. The issue again was “same-sex marriage.” Our local paper dared to print an engagement photo of two people of the same sex, and the flood of letters to the local newspaper were extremely nasty. Some threatened to cancel their subscription. It got this rather serious response from me:


It has been a long, long time since I have seen so much hatred expressed in the name of Jesus in all those letters to the editor of The Star-Journal that condemned an engagement announcement.

I really feel sorry for those who have such fragile family values that they feel threatened by the very personal (and private) actions of other people.

Although I disagree with the hate themes expressed in those letters, I commend The Star-Journal for publishing them. I look forward enthusiastically to renewing my subscription.

Lest we forget, “LOVE IS THE ONLY POWER.”

Although I generally write letters to the editor which address specific issues, there is a favored way to express thanks to those who have helped you in some way. Thank you notes are OK, but I like to express my thanks publicly. Following letter to the editor illustrates that point:


We live in Northfield and while I was working in my yard this afternoon, someone inadvertently left the gate open (it was me) and my two senile idiot dogs decided to see what lay beyond. Most dogs just wander the neighborhood and then come home after a respectful jaunt.

Not our independent thinking dogs, Tracker and Katy. Thinking they would surely come home soon, we didn’t worry too much about them for the next hour. We were shocked to receive FOUR voice mails telling us that our dogs were secure behind Stahl’s. Egads, that’s right off the highway! We jumped into our car and drove the mile or so to Stahl’s staying well within the speed limit of 65mph, right? Would you believe that Stahl employees – who didn’t have any dog leashes – had secured our dogs by shifting them from one parked car to another, apparently during their various breaks. They told us that they were dog lovers and knew what it was like to lose a pet.

When we got our dogs home, I severely punished both of them. They only got two bedtime doggie treats instead of their usual three. Stahl’s must be a wonderful place to work if those employees are representative of their company.

In summary, I have a number of beliefs that motivate me to respond to what I read or hear about. Here are just a few of them.

I believe:

• That every household should have a grenade launcher since they are legal in Missouri. However, I also believe that grenade ammunition should be outlawed.

• That I am one of the good guys, at least when compared to some of the bad guys I know,

• That all guys should have a wife who will bake them a yellow cake with chocolate icing for each birthday.

• That the number 88 is a great score for a round of golf but it is awesome in terms of years of age. Golf is still the greatest sport going and my shattering of the course record during a City Golf Tournament still stands. (I shot the highest score anyone has ever shot in that tournament.)

• That I would rather read a good book than work in the yard.

• That when I run across anything that is counter to my beliefs that I have a patriotic duty to write another letter to the editor.

Thanks, Carl Foster! Keep those cards and letters coming!

Foster/Inglish Prize in Public Relations
Established in 2000 through an endowment to the UCM Foundation, the award was created to honor achievement and service by members of the university’s public relations staff. Niemuth is the eleventh person to be honored with the award.

John Inglish, UCM director emeritus of public relations, created the endowment in honor of his longtime friend and mentor, Carl Foster, who retired as director emeritus of public relations at UCM in 1986 after 19 years of service. Inglish succeeded Foster in the post, retiring after 27 years of service to UCM’s public relations office. The award includes the addition of the recipient’s name on a plaque honoring the previous recipients and a monetary prize made possible by the endowment.

Link Daily Star Journal

Resident serves with Kennedy in Pacific, Lovinger at UCM

Carl Foster while a sailor in World War II

Sinking of PT 109 
PT 109 and crew with Lt. John F. Kennedy
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Warrensburg - The PT 109 would become the most famous patrol boat in naval history, but while scraping barnacles off her belly on a steamy Pacific island, Carl Foster, Warrensburg, called her anything but a lady.

The PT 109 provided the name for Jimmy Dean's No. 1 hit in 1962 and for a 1963 Hollywood film starring Cliff Robertson. In 1943, Foster knew nothing of future pop culture, only that he came a long way from Indiana to fight a war.

"Hell, I joined up," Foster, 91, said.

Joined to fight, not paint.

His parents let him enter the military only after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941.

"I didn't get any objections from my folks then," he said, though he stayed home long enough, until June 1942, to finish high school.

Foster said a high school infantry camp convinced him to join the Navy. He preferred small boats to cruisers, such as the Indianapolis, or to aircraft carriers, such as the Yorktown.

Serving on a 13-member patrol boat started with taking a circuitous route that began in high school typing class. The Navy appreciated his typing so much that they put him in radio school.

"Nobody else knew how to type but me and I was at the head of the (Navy) class all the way through," he said.

For being in the top 10 out of 200, Foster said, he got to pick his assignment - radioman aboard a patrol boat.

"So you can say if it hadn't been for my experience on the high school commercial typing team I never would have met Jack Kennedy."

Desire to serve his country after Pearl Harbor took Foster to a strip of land about 6/10ths of a mile wide and three miles long within the Solomon Islands. The Japanese had built an airstrip there, and American-Australian forces captured the island, losing 122 men to 863 for the Japanese in August 1942 - all before Foster arrived.

Foster did not battle the enemy. In boiling temperatures he battled barnacles on an old PT boat's bottom.

"If you've ever, in the hot sun, scraped the bottom of a PT boat to get the crud off, and then repainted it while it's sitting up in dry dock..."

The paint job made the boat fit for military brass to use for "taxi service."

"We were at Tulagi and about 20 miles or so across the way was Guadalcanal, and we would carry generals over for meetings on Guadalcanal. We provided taxi service back and forth," he said, and described the utter lack of joy in such joy rides. "When you take them over there, you're (left) sitting out off the beach in that hot sun. You're sitting there and rocking, and I used to get seasick as a dog."

The patrol boat - which like others of the same type could be identified by the initials and a number, PT 109 - had a young lieutenant as a skipper.

"He was first class. I was impressed with the fact that he was extremely knowledgeable about things like navigation and boat handling. ... He was a very friendly, very agreeable young man."

Weeks without action for the PT 109 became months.

"I don't recall that we ever went on a patrol. I was on that boat for not quite six months."

Foster guessed the Navy did not want the son of the ambassador to Great Britain in harm's way.

"I'm convinced of it."

When the chance to transfer to another PT boat arose, Foster grabbed on with both hands.

"When the 157 lost their radioman, he got killed, they needed a radioman, and we had two radiomen on the 109. John Mickey McGuire was a buddy of mine and we got along great, but I said, 'Hey, we don't need two radiomen,' and they sent me over to fill in temporarily. And I loved that crew. We kind of gelled. And I said, 'Geez, I'd sure like to get off of the 109.'"

Two Annapolis graduates led the PT 157, a new boat. Lts. Robert B. Kelly and J.D. Bulkeley had military experience. When the Philippines fell to Japan, Bulkeley used the old PT 41 to rescue Gen. Douglas MacArthur and family, and Kelly used the old PT 34 to rescue Rear Admiral Francis W. Rockwell and Brigadier Gen. Richard J. Marshall, a veteran of the Pancho Villa Expedition who would go on to become Army chief of staff. Being in such company appealed to Foster.

"Everything was shipshape. The guys were always in clean uniforms. ... I was really impressed with that."

Foster asked Kelly's permission to remain with the 157.

"He says, 'Why do you want to come over here?' And I have to laugh about it now. I actually looked at him and said, 'Well, sir, I didn't come over here to run taxi service. I came over here to fight the Japs.' And all I remember is the look of disgust on his face." But he approved the transfer.

Foster's hope of seeing action had the opposite result. About a week later, the PT 109 and two other PT boats went on patrol. Without radar to warn of an approaching enemy, the three boats should have been on high alert. But that did not appear to happen Aug. 2, 1943, in Blackett Strait. Foster speculated Kennedy and the 109 went along as support for the other two boats. After having gone previously only on milk runs, Kennedy and his crew might not have expected the destroyer Amagiri, flying Japan's spangled flag, to come driving out of fog and darkness.

"They should have been at general quarters. There's no question about that. And I know they weren't because that's the reason that (Andrew) Kirksey, their torpedoman, was killed - because he was asleep on the deck, which is where we slept when we were out there. So they were just on their normal four-(hours)-on, four-off sort of thing when all hands should have been up and alert, guns manned and looking for the enemy."

The collision also claimed the life of Harold Marney.

The other boats sounded no warning to the 109 about the charging Amagiri.

"We had these little handheld mics and they worked sometimes and sometimes they didn't. And that night... No moon, no light, foggy - you couldn't see very far. So I can understand how a high-speed destroyer ... coming through the water could be on them before they realized."

The destroyer knifed through the ocean and sliced the PT 109 in two.

"They got hit and caught on fire and everybody went over the side. Eventually half of the boat stayed above water and they got them back aboard, and they sat there fully expecting to be rescued. The other two PTs turned tail and ran. ... They both came back and reported no survivors - Kennedy and all hands lost, and that was their excuse for leaving the area."

What happened next would help provide the foundation for a political career that led Kennedy to the presidency 17 years later.

"I have nothing but respect for him. Any of the crew members who were with him on the 109 will tell you - and I remember talking with Mickey McGuire - that he truly saved their lives."

Based on those with whom he spoke, and historical information, Foster set the scene for the 109's sinking near Plum Pudding Island.

"A couple guys are wounded. A couple guys couldn't swim very well. And one of the guys ... in a life jacket, (Kennedy) took the life jacket straps in his teeth and towed the guy to the beach and got everybody there and kept the crew together."

Kennedy swam with Patrick "Pappy" McMahon, burned badly, in tow.

After getting his men to safety, Kennedy realized no rescue party would come.

"Every night Kennedy would swim from the island out into the middle of the strait. You don't know how terrifying that is. ... He would swim out there for an hour in hopes that another PT boat would come through, because that was their route. But they stopped patrolling and they never sent anybody up there - a plane or anything to look for them - because they were reported all hands lost."

After days on Plum Pudding Island, Australian coast watcher Reginald Evans learned about the men of the PT 109, and with the help of natives in canoes, rescued the crew. Kennedy and his men arrived at Tulagi like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn - pirates at their own funeral.

"We all had to get clean clothes on - we didn't have any 'whites' to wear, but had clean hats and clean uniforms. We were actually in the process of holding a memorial service in honor of the crew of the PT 109 when this ship comes sailing into Tulagi harbor and the word was they had Kennedy and surviving crew members aboard. There was great celebration. ...

"I can remember two funerals for Kennedy."

Foster at last found action while patrolling on the PT 157.

"We had shore batteries that opened up on us, we had bombs dropped on us that splashed water on the boat - they were that close, and we had bullet holes in the hull of the boat, which we didn't even know until we got back," Foster said. "We had to patrol to within a half mile of the beach and on a moonlit night you might just as well be out in broad daylight."

On a special patrol, Foster's light PT boat floated over submarine nets and into an enclosed area where they expected to find enemy ships and a sink-or-be-sunk battle. But the Japanese had already pulled out.

One of the most dramatic engagements for Foster - the "Battle of the Latrines" - is not in any history book.

"On New Year's Eve we'd been saving up all of the hooch - we were making our own. We were actually using a torpedo and distilling what was coming out of there, and it was like 180-proof alcohol."

Everyone on the PT 157 drank on their expected night off.

"By 4 or 5 o'clock in the evening, we were as potted as any crew, including the skipper. The 154 boat, which was our sister boat, came struggling back. They were having engine problems and word came down - 'Crank it up, 'cause you've got to go in their place.' And we went out of the harbor that night hanging onto the railings, with 45s strapped on and (looking for a fight). It was crazy. ...

"Fortunately, we didn't run into anybody, but in our frustration, because we didn't have anybody to shoot, we saw along the beach all of these little piers coming out and there were these little houses that the Japanese had built as latrines. And three boats went in one at a time and just blew those outhouses to hell. We just had a ball. ...
"Now, that's stupid. But the firepower of a torpedo boat broadside - you've got a 40mm gun on the stern, you've got twin 50s in the after turret, you've got a 20mm in the forward turret, you've got a 30mm machine gun in the cockpit and you've got a 37mm cannon and a 50mm machine gun on the bow - you fire that broadside at something and it is awesome. ...

"That was a fun night."

Memories of World War II are valuable, and getting those involved to share is important - a Missouri historian, author and University of Central Missouri professor emeritus - William Foley, said Thursday. Foley said he used to live near Foster and considers him a friend, but they had never discussed the PT 109.

"That's amazing, because I've known Carl for a long time and I never knew that. Those memories are so important (to share). Many people, particularly from the Second World War, were reluctant to really discuss their experiences for a variety of reasons, such as they were so painful, and some of the things they witnessed, and it's only been more recently that more of them have come forward. But those kinds of recollections are the source materials that far too soon (will) be gone. There are not many left from their generation and their numbers are declining every day."

When the war ended, Foster took about two months to have fun, and then went to college, something his father had discouraged.

"This is exactly what he said, 'Son, college is not for folks like us.' He was a railway postal clerk and had never even graduated from high school."

Foster attended Indiana University under the GI Bill.

"I wasn't sure I could handle the work and I found out in the very first semester that I didn't have any problem."

Foster majored in journalism, married, graduated and worked in press and radio relations for the National Education Association, Washington.

About two years later, Foster took a new job promoting free enterprise in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce education department.

"I went out and visited area chambers of commerce," he said, "wherever the U.S. Chamber had a meeting."

Working in Washington would be a dream job for some, but the job came with major inconveniences.

"I couldn't handle the traffic. I flat out thought, 'This is nonsense. It takes me an hour and a half to get to work, an hour and a half to get home. I'm missing my kids, my wife, the whole works, and I've got to get out of here.'"

Foster moved to Orlando, Fla., and worked about 10 years for the Martin Marietta aircraft and aerospace corporation. While there, Foster ran into Kennedy at a black-tie, annual broadcasters dinner at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington.

"I looked over there and I said, 'Holy mackerel, there's my old skipper.' At that time he was Senator Kennedy and he was surrounded by a whole mob of people wanting to get next to him," Foster said, and at a friend's urging Foster moved up to Kennedy. "I said, 'Excuse me, but I'd just like to shake hands with my old skipper.' ... He turned around, looked at me and said, 'Well, hello, Carl, how are you?' It floored me because it had been at least 10 years since we had been together and the last time he saw me I must have had dirty blue jeans or something on, because that's all we wore out in the islands, and here I am 10 years later in a tuxedo in Washington, D.C., and he immediately recognized me. I'll never forget that. To me, it was awesome."

Hollywood added star quality to Kennedy with the film, "PT 109," directed by Leslie Martinson for Warner Bros.

"I saw that 14 times," Foster said.

The film came out in June, five months before Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963.

Foster spent the day fishing along the Suwannee River and heard nothing until his return home. That is when Foster witnessed - this time with the entire nation - Kennedy's second funeral.

"That's all that was on the news. We were inundated with it. It was like the bombing of the Trade Center."

Foster took his final job in 1967 as Central Missouri State College's public relations director.

The college needed an identity and attitude adjustment, and Foster delivered both. Regarding identity, CMSC had a stodgy appearance in terms of materials sent to prospective students.

"They had old-school publications. All of them were black and white. They didn't even know that color printing had been invented."

Regarding attitude, CMSC sent authoritarian messages to prospective students. A letter to one student, Foster's wife, said, "Failure to comply with all of our rules and regulations will result in denial of your admission."

Foster changed all such communication to present an inviting message, letting students know the college existed to serve them, not the other way around.

Getting a press release to Kansas City media used to take hours.

"(If) we had a hot release ... we'd get in the car and we'd drive it into Kansas City. We'd visit the three TV stations, the Kansas City Star and Times, and The Associated Press. We'd hand carry the release to them. ... On the way back I thought, 'Man, I really had a great day today. I really moved that release fast.'"

After one such trip, Foster incurred a lunch bill of $1.14 for a hamburger and shake - reimbursement rejected. The rules allowed no reimbursements without prior approval.

Foster argued he did not have time to do his job and ask for food money in advance.

"I got my money back. You can count on that. ... But that was the old-school mentality where you saved every pencil and every paper clip."

Angry Black Panthers, arson, turmoil - not the kind of situation one expects now at UCM, but free-willed students in the 1970s could not coexist with the authoritarian dictates issued from a 1950s perspective.

"We had such outrageous, archaic rules, it's no wonder students didn't like it. ...

"They had a couple of riots - when you get people who congregate in the union and set fire to the drapes, and storm the place."

The Black Panthers' appearance on campus resulted in a confrontation with Dean of Men Tom Edmunds.

"He told them if they didn't clear out he'd have the state police there. He had a lot of guts to stand up there in front of them."

As a result of the Black Panthers confrontation, Foster had to answer media questions.

"I had this knucklehead from Channel 4. ... He had this camera stuck in my face and a microphone stuck under my nose and his question to me was, 'What is the black problem on this campus?' I looked at him and I was kind of stunned, and I said, 'How the hell would I know?'"

Foster regretted immediately the comment, and said so. To his surprise none of the media used what he said.

In another case, a Kansas City Star reporter called about three students who petitioned to remove then UCM President Warren Lovinger, who had them expelled. Lovinger later lost when the students filed suit.

"It was 10 o'clock at night and (the reporter) literally demanded to know what was going on, and in exasperation I said to him, 'Oh, you don't want to know the facts, all you want are the gory details.' Would you believe in The Kansas City Star the headline above the story was, 'Public relations director refuses to release the gory details'? I hit my office the next morning and there's a message, 'Report to the office immediately.'"

Lovinger told Foster to never again utter those words. Foster did not.

Foster said UCM went through the '70s easily.

"Compared to what we saw on other campuses, this was not really anything."

In addition to being the war protest era, the '70s provided "streakers," young men and women who stripped to their birthday suits and ran in public places. In one case, Edmunds saw more than he wanted.

"One day I walked into his office and threw an 8-by-10 photo of him tackling one of those streakers. I said, 'Tom, gall darn, we don't need photos of the dean tackling naked streakers!' ... He was always in the heart of everything."

One of Foster's former employees, a Marine veteran, Gary Grigsby, described Foster as having some of the administration's "tough guy" attitude. Foster once demanded that Grigsby solve a problem presented by Lovinger's final speech.

"The sound system went 'kaputski' and apparently there was some sabotage."

Sabotaged or not, Foster wanted the speech recorded for posterity.

"I solved the problem," Grigsby said. "I ran a feed from my recorder to the stadium P.A. system and essentially it saved the sound. Carl was then very appreciative that I was there in place."

After Foster retired, Grigsby said he discovered another side of the man.

"When I got better acquainted with him in a social sense - he's just delightful. He is very heady, very intellectual."

Foster's media skills aided Grigsby.

"I wrote an article for NPR ... that was about the use of computers in radio. He edited for me and was delightful - good suggestions. I have come to hold Carl - the professional side and the personal side - as two different personalities."

Foster said he learned an important career lesson while working at UCM. After doing work one year that resulted in winning a national award versus much larger schools, Foster received a raise - $200.

Offended, Foster asked Lovinger about the disconnection between the high level of accomplishment and the insulting raise.

"He looked at me and he said, 'Whatever gave you the idea that your good work had anything to do with your salary?' He floored me. I said, 'Thank you, sir,' and I walked out."

A nonagenarian, Foster is retired, sort of.

Last year he wrote a historical story for a publication on Warrensburg Rotary Club's 75th anniversary and Thursday he announced completion of an ebook dedicated to helping people understand how to write and get letters to the editor published.

"I was cleaning out my files and I found this big folder and letters ... and I started laughing when I read some of them."

Foster realized what he had would work as a good how-to book. He said an online bookseller will release the book pending reviews from professionals that he plans to attach to the work.

The bookseller with whom Foster works does marketing, but he plans to lend his expertise to that effort.

"I'm planning to do some of my own. I have a lot of contacts."

PT 109 the Unknown History Link

No comments: