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PFC Richard D. Foss
Company G, 350th Regiment,
88th Infantry Division
PFC Richard Foss was a member of Company G of the 350th "Battle Mountain" Regiment. This regiment held out for several days on top of Monte Battaglia and suffered heavy casualties. Pfc Foss was one of the lucky ones.
Richard was born Dec. 2, 1912 in Hollywood, California, the son of a laborer at a refrigerated food warehouse. His mother died giving birth to Richard. He lived in a boarding house with his father where he was raised by the wife of the owner of the house, as his father worked long hours. His father died of pneumonia when Richard was 10 years of age. He was then shipped by train, alone, across the country to New Hampshire to live with relatives that he had never met. His father was from a farming family of five brothers and one sister. There was no relative could afford to keep and feed him so he alternated between the brothers and sister. After a few years the sister said, “Enough is enough, this is no way to raise a child” and took him in permanently. He stayed and worked on the farm and finished his schooling in New Hampshire.
After school and during the Depression, he took many jobs, from being on a road crew building roads in New Hampshire to working as a bus boy in restaurants from New York City to Miami, Florida. He eventually ended up in Springfield, Massachusetts where he met and married Dorothy E. Kopf, a college girl from a German immigrant family from Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Richard and Dorothy were living in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where Richard was working as a stock clerk at General Electric when the war broke out. Dorothy had just had their first child, Patricia, so Richard didn’t enlist. He felt his duty was to his family. But, at 31 years of age, he was drafted by the army and ended up in the 88th infantry Division, the first all-draftee infantry to serve in any war.
Richard was sent to Italy after training. Although he trained as a radioman, he was handed a rifle and served as an infantryman with the 88th Division until the surrender of the Germans in Italy. Richard was a Blue Devil* in company G of the 350th Infantry Regiment. This is the company that took and held Mt. Battaglia for a week against repeated attacks. At the end of the battle, in what many consider to be one of the worst battles in Italy, Richard was one of only 50 men from company G still alive. Later, the 350th Infantry Regiment adopted the name of "Battle Mountain regiment". The battle incurred 2,105 casualties.
The Germans finally surrendered all their forces in Italy on 2 May, 1945. Richard was on guard duty that day and was in the building to witness the German commander surrender to the Allies. After the surrender, Richard was on one of the first ships to return as he had earned enough combat points to send him home.
For more detailed description of the fighting on Battle Mountain and a map, refer to Captain Roeder's biography. Also, see the website about Pfc. Felix B. Mestas, Jr., who killed 26 Germans and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. Pfc. Felix B. Mestas, Jr. [EXTERNAL LINK]
The peak of Monte Battaglia after the stand by Company G.
American dead still lies in the foreground.
The following is an excert from a book about the 88th Infantry, who became known as "The Battle Mountain Blue Devils".
Each veteran and survivor has his own personal tale of horror, his own nightmare of those 344 days and nights which blended together in one long drawn-out hell. It has been said that all the mornings were dark, all the days were different colors of gray, all the nights were black. And all the time up in those mountains was just borrowed time. The terrain was so rough the Germans figured that no troops in the world could get through the heavily defended mountain passes. But the Blue Devils made it through the passes or over the mountain tops. The weather was so bad the Germans thought no foot soldiers or vehicles could possibly operate in the mud and slime. But the Blue Devils walked and rode through the worst of it. The defenses and concrete emplacements were so formidable that the Germans estimated they were impregnable. But the Blue Devils stormed and shattered the biggest and the best of them.
The 88th Infantry Division was the first all-draftee division to ever fight in any war and is said to have exemplified this incisive statement.
Our army is no better than its infantry. And victory will come only when and as our infantry gains it. The price will be predominantly what the infantry pays. These days the entire nation is following operations on its war maps. It is to be noted that the front lines of these maps are simply where the infantryman is. It is true that he is supported magnificently by artillery and air, but this support is behind and above him. . . . . There is nothing in front of him but the enemy.
After the War
Richard was reunited with his wife Dorothy and daughter Patricia. They moved to Springfield, Massachusetts and started a new life. Richard again had many jobs; paint salesman, vending machine route driver, anything to make a buck. Richard and Dorothy had two more children, a set of twins, in 1951. Richard eventually applied for and got a government job working for the Navy Department in Springfield. He worked his way up the ranks and, ironic as it may seem, he ended up back in Pittsfield at General Electric. This time he was not a stock boy, as before the war, but the head of The Navy Department overseeing the production of the guidance systems for the nuclear war heads in the Polaris Missiles on Trident Submarines. When Richard retired he was a Navy G-15 civil service ranking. The only way he could have gone higher was by a Presidential Appointment.
Photo was probably taken after the war, as he is wearing 3 stripes for his 18 months of overseas service. Just visible above his coat pocket is the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
PFC Ricard Foss enjoying time with his daughter, Patricia.
Richard died in Jan 2004 at he age of 91 after a prolonged battle with throat cancer. He had a full life with 63 years of marriage to Dorothy and almost 40 years of retirement. He is survived by his wife Dorothy, his daughters Patricia and Karen, his son Bruce, three Grandchildren and two Great-Grandchildren. This bio was written, after much research, by his son.
1951 & 1952 - Richard Foss enjoying his family.
Coping with the War
Richard was one of those veterans who never spoke of the war; not to his wife and not to anyone - ever! When he first came home and people would ask about the war Richard would say, “It’s over, we won, and I don’t want to talk about it”. If someone persisted and kept asking, he would just walk out of the room. Everyone soon learned, just don’t ask.
Dorothy tells a story about how, many years later while vacationing in Europe, she wanted to go into Italy and Richard flat out refused to step one foot across the border. She also said that his letters home during the war (which were few) were never about the fighting, just “I love you, I miss you, this is where I am now, I’m fine, and I’ll see you as soon as we get this job done”. The only war story we have is told by Dorothy. She said that in one of his letters he complained that his feet were killing him because his boots were worn out. She bought him a new pair, but because of shipping regulations she couldn't ship them together, so she shipped them separately. Richard received one boot, but before the second arrived the army was on the move again. He carried that one boot in his back pack for almost six months before the second one finally caught up with him.
Richard’s regiment received the French Croix de Guerre, the Meritorious Unit Citation, and the Presidential Unit Citation. The latter award was created during WWII to recognize units for a collective display of extraordinary heroism. The degree of heroism required is the same as that which would warrant the award of the Distinguished Service Cross to an individual. Richard was also awarded the Bronze Star, the European Theater Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Service Stars, the Good Conduct Medal, a WWII Victory Medal, the Marksman Badge with Carbine & Rifle bars, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. As with most infantrymen, Richard was most proud of the CIB.
Richard is and will always be our family's Hero.
This biography and photos were graciously provided by Bruce Foss, Private Richard Foss's son.
* The 88th Division were called the "Blue Devils", a name given to them by the Germans because of the way they fought in battle and the blue cloverleaf patch they wore on their uniforms. After the war, historians ranked the 88th Division as 4th out of the ten most effective fighting force’s in WWII. The other nine were German.
For more detailed description of the fighting on Battle Mountain and a map, refer to Captain Roeder's biography. Also, read the biography of Pfc. Felix B. Mestas, Jr., who killed 26 Germans and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his stand on Battle Mountain.
Captain Roeder Pfc. Felix B. Mestas, Jr. [EXTERNAL LINK]
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