I previously wrote about Buslee crew ball turret gunner Erwin Vernon Foster in this article. However, after visiting the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri, I found some additional information about him.
In his personnel file at the NPRC, I found several forms relating to Erwin’s service in the Air Force Reserves after WWII and his active duty in the Korean War. They are also a window into what Erwin did for a living, as he had to fill out employment information on several forms. For instance, Erwin noted he was in auto sales for three months, roofing and siding sales for a home improvement company for seven months, and in office equipment sales for Pitney-Bowes, particularly mailing machines, for one month.
As a reservist, Erwin filled out a form for a voluntary application for recall of USAFR Airmen to Active Duty on July 8, 1950, volunteering for a 12 month tour in the Korean War. At the time he was living at 15 Park St. in Oswego, NY, was married and had a child.
On this form, he listed his education as:
- High School: Elmira Free Academy (graduated 1939)
- College: Simmons School of Embalming, 6 month course of Funeral Director, degree of Embalmers, Undertaker (1940)
- Military: Scott Field, IL, 4 1/2 months, radio course, no degree
- Military: Harlingen Gunnery School, 1 1/2 months, aerial gunner course (3 mos), degree aerial gunner
This form also noted:
- Unit and Location: unassigned (enlisted Elmira, NY)
- Duty Assignment: none
- Military Occupational Specialty:
- Primary: 611, April 1944 – October 1945
- Additional: 612, July 1944 – May 1945
- Additional: 847, June 1945 – October 1945
- Additional: Embalmer
He noted his WWII service as:
- 8th AF, 384th BG, 544th BS, 4 July 1944 – 28 Feb 1945, 35 combat missions, aerial gunner, B-17
- Active service from 4 Dec 1942 to 20 Oct, 1945 (2 Dec 1942 to 23 Oct 1945 on another form)
- 10 months of overseas service (11 months on another form)
He noted his last 3 civilian occupations as:
- March 1945 – Jan 1947, salesman, automobile, W.D. Schwenk Inc, Elmira, NY
- Jan 1947 – June 1949, undertaker, embalmer, J.E. Baird Funeral Service, Wayland, NY
- June 1949 – Present, undertaker, embalmer, Emens Funeral Home (self), Oswego, NY (uncertain of this name written in Erwin’s handwriting)
Forms that Erwin signed on December 4 and 5 of 1950 in Fort Dix, New Jersey – apparently as he was re-entering active duty – indicated quite a bit of personal information, too.
- His home address was 452 W. Church St., Elmira, New York (his mother’s home).
- He was born in Horseheads, New York.
- He weighed 150 lbs and was 5’6” tall.
- His wife, Virginia S. Foster, was 26 years old.
- He had a three-year old daughter.
- His mother, Mary C. Smith, was 56 years old.
- Ruth Carpenter was an aunt living at 454 W. Church St., Elmira, New York (right next door).
- His father was deceased, having died at 30 years old of meningitis.
- In 1934 at age 14, Erwin had had an appendectomy in Elmira.
- In 1944, while in England, Erwin had jaundice.
On other forms, Erwin provided this further information about himself:
- His military address was 306th Bomb Group, 368th Bomb Squadron.
- At Elmira High School, he played football.
- He considered his main occupation to be Salesman, retail, selling postal machines (stamping). His employer was Pitney-Bowes, Inc of Stamford, CT. At the time he filled out the form, he had been doing this for 1 month.
- He considered his second best occupation to be an embalmer for 8 years, working for himself. His last date of employment at this occupation was October 1950. In this job, he made arrangements for and conducted funerals. He attended such details as selection of coffin, site, flowers, adjusting of lights, transportation, etc. He did embalming work. He worked at this occupation from 1939 – 1942 and 1946 – 1950.
- His listed an additional occupation or hobby as hunting.
- The dates of his last civilian employment were July 1949 to October 1950 as a self-employed Funeral Director.
- His original induction date into the military (in WWII) was November 28, 1942.
- His date and place of entry into active service in the Korean War was December 1, 1950.
During the Korean War, Erwin’s most significant duty assignment was the 305th Air Refueling Squadron, 305th Bomb Wing (M), MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. He was in Operations. On October 22, 1951, he was granted Top Secret Clearance (only a month before his release).
On November 29, 1951, Erwin Foster received an honorable discharge and was released from assignment with the 305th Air Refueling Squadron, 305th Bomb Wing (M), MacDill AFB, Florida. At that time, he transferred back to the Air Force Reserves. On July 26, 1953, Erwin was discharged from the Air Force Reserves.
Some of the interesting things I deduce from this information and information from my previous post are:
- Like Buslee crew top turret gunner, Lenard Leroy Bryant, Erwin must have washed out of radio school before going on to become an aerial gunner.
- Erwin’s wife and child must have gone to live with his mother in Elmira, New York while he was on active duty in the Korean War.
- Ruth Carpenter, who showed up living with Erwin and his mother along with her own son, in earlier census records was still living close to Erwin’s mother (right next door). Ruth’s son, Raymond, was three years older than Erwin.
- Erwin’s father died at 30 years old of meningitis. In WWI, he served on the USS Guantanamo from October 9, 1918 until the end of WWI on November 11, 1918. Navy records show that he died on March 10, 1921. It is unclear if he was still serving with the Navy at the time. Erwin was only one year old when his father died.
- In 1944, while in England, Erwin had jaundice. This is one of the most interesting pieces of information for me in Erwin’s personnel file. I had been wondering why he missed so many missions with the Buslee crew in September of 1944. I believe this could be the reason. Fortunately for him, he was unable to fly on the September 28, 1944 mission to Magdeburg where the Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s flying fortress. As a result, Erwin was able to finish his thirty-five required missions to complete his tour and return home. Erwin Foster was one of only three of the original Buslee crew members to complete his missions without being killed, seriously wounded, or taken prisoner during WWII.
- I don’t understand his mention of the 306th Bomb Group, 368th Bomb Squadron as his military address on one form although I supposed it could have been his designation during his Air Force Reserve duty.
Now I have some more Buslee crew NexGens to search for: Erwin Foster’s daughter, who would be in her early 70’s today, and descendants of his cousin Raymond Carpenter.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018