Foster, Willard E. (P2, C2, L20)
Private Willard Ermal Foster, 18, of Mercer County, died of dysentery on Monday, June 1, 1942 at Camp O’Donnell in the Philippines as a prisoner of war while serving on federal active duty. Some websites list his middle name as Emmal but his KYNG records read Ermal.
Foster was born in Mercer County December 27, 1923 to Gladys Chilton Foster and Arthur Foster. Arthur Foster died in early July 1926. Foster joined the Harrodsburg National Guard unit on May 20, 1940. He would have been only 16 at the time of his enlistment and just 17 when taken prisoner of war.
The 38th Tank Company was the first Kentucky unit ordered to active duty in Kentucky on 25 November 1940 and foster went on to active duty. The unit and was redesignated as Company D, 192nd Light Tank Battalion at Fort Knox. He was assigned to Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
He was taken prisoner on 9 April 1941 and survived the Death March. He was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan #1.
According to records kept by the Camp O’Donnell medical staff, Pvt. Willard E. Foster died of dysentery on Monday, June 1, 1942, and was buried in the camp cemetery. After the war, Foster’s remains were positively identified by the U.S. Remains Recovery Team and reburied at the new American Military Cemetery, Manila, in plot D, row 1, grave 257. His headstone in the Manila Cemetery lists his date of death as June 2, 1942.
SEE Also: Bataan Commemorative Research Project Website
Pvt. Willard Emmal Foster was born on December 27, 1923, in Mercer County, Kentucky, to Gladys Chilton-Foster and Arthur Foster. With his two sisters and a brother, the family resided on Dixville Road, Rosehill, Kentucky. It is known that during the 1920s, his father died.
Willard joined the Kentucky National Guard on May 20, 1940. In September 1940, his Kentucky National Guard Tank Company was federalized and called to federal service on November 25, 1940. The company boarded 10 trucks in Harrodsburg on November 28th and its tanks were loaded onto a flatcar and taken by train to Ft. Knox. The company left Harrodsburg at 12:30 P.M. arriving four hours later at 4:30 P.M.