Neton’s Then and Now: Norman Foster — a true war hero

James Neton/For the Craig Daily Press
James Neton

World War II dropped down on top of Craig, carried away hundreds of men, and sent them to nearly all parts of the world. Of those who served from our area, 24 men died during the war leaving behind family members to remember and mourn a life cut short and dreams unfulfilled. One of these men was Norman Foster.

Born in Littleton in 1924, Norman came to Craig at the age of four with his parents. His father, George, worked at the Texas Refinery and later owned Foster Pontiac dealership. Norman graduated from Craig High School in May, 1943. A month later he received his draft notice and was inducted on June 30, 1943 just like so many of his classmates.

Norman quickly went from studying his books and playing right tackle for the football team to learning how to drive a tank. The stark future bearing down on these young men created a powerful sense of trepidation throughout the course of daily life as whole graduating classes were swept out of Craig and carried off to war.

For Norman Foster that stark future was very short. After basic training he was assigned as a replacement to “A” Company of the 70th tank battalion. Norman caught up with the 70th in England early in 1944 and began training as a driver for an M4 Sherman DD tank. After training all spring, the crews along with their tanks were loaded up to take part in D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944. As Norman’s landing craft carrying his tank and three others approached Utah Beach it detonated a mine. Tanks and men were shot 100 feet into the air. All were killed. Norman never made it to shore to even begin to engage in the righteous fight, and his body was never recovered.

A short three paragraph spot in the Craig Empire Courier of June 21, 1944 stated that Mr. and Mrs. George E. Foster received a telegram informing them their son was declared Missing in Action. On Oct. 25, the newspaper confirmed that Norman had been killed in action on June 6. From June to October, daily life for the family must have been excruciatingly difficult as all hoped and prayed that Norman might somehow still be alive and simply unaccounted for due to the confusion of war.

To his grieving family, the inability to bury Norman left a gaping wound, impossible to heal, especially for his little sister Beth Foster (Tucker). In 1994, 50 years after his death, in a Craig Daily Press interview, Beth still recalled how Norman, a senior in high school, spent time with her, then 10 years old, and taught her to play marbles and jacks. Beth adored and looked up to her older brother.

In that 50th anniversary interview she stated, “I’ve missed Norman, and I’ve missed him all my life and I’ll miss him till I die.” However, Beth did find solace in the manner of his death. “I think I’m glad he died before he saw the horrors of war. I’m glad he died young and happy instead of coming back mentally and spiritually ruined.” Always missing Norman, she had a headstone placed in the Veteran’s area of the Craig Cemetery. Beth Tucker Foster died in 2013.

The Museum of Northwest Colorado is in the midst of commissioning a World War II memorial for veterans like Norman. There will now be a physical reminder of those men, and how the war touched so many lives in our small town. And hopefully it will offer closure to all those who have lost family members in war, even for the family of Norman Foster who 71 years later is still just off the beaches of Normandy.

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