Lt. Arnett, Foster D.
RHQ, 511th PIR
November 28, 1920 - December 2002 (Age 86) - Gravesite
Citations: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
Bio: Lieutenant Colonel (RET) Foster D. "Punchy" Arnett was commissioned in December 1942 as a 2LT in the Infantry Corps. Arnett deployed to the Pacific Theater in 1943 and fought and was wounded in the Battle of Leyte (Philippines). He was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for his actions in that battle. He participated in one of the three combat jumps the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment executed in the Philippines. Of note, he was also the coach for the 511th's vaunted boxing team, earning himself the nickname "Punchy" (see the photo below, Lt. Arnett is center in cap on the back row).
Foster's "promotion" to head coach has a rather humerous story behind it. After Colonel Orin D. Haugen voiced serious disatifaction with his regiment's win-loss record pre-New Guinea, LT "Po" Carter, a former NCAA National Middleweight Chapmion, suggested that Hard Rock get Foster to help. Punchy then noted that in May of 1944, "the 'Rock' ordered me (he certainly didn't ask me) to become Coach of the Team with specific and purple instructions that he was damned tired of having our Box Team embarassed by victories of the 'Glider Riders,' and I was instructed to do something about it, or else!"
Foster/Punchy took over and obediently started winning, but one hot New Guinea night when boredom soared and tempers were short, LT Hank LaBar "jumped" Punchy after a movie. Foster and LaBar scapped amidst the cheers of the surrounding troops and the next morning Colonel Haugen chastized the two officers. Hard Rock punished LaBar by assigning him to the Prison and Parole Duty and Foster became the new Officer in Charge of the Division Officers Mess.
Punchy made the most of the situation, however, and secretly rewarded his winning boxers with steaks take (i.e. stolen) from the Division Mess. Until General Swing found out, however and told Colonel Haugen to take Foster back. Swing then told Punchy, "Keep your damn boxers out of my mess hall!"
Following service in World War II, he graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in August 1946 then he attended law school at the University of Virginia (always “Mr. Jefferson’s University” to Foster), graduating in 1948. Following graduation, he continued to serve in the US Army Reserves and retired in 1980.
His civilian career in practicing law began in Knoxville with the law firm of Fowler and Roundtree. In February 1954, Foster started his own firm and soon was recognized as an outstanding lawyer in state, federal, and international bars. Among his numerous accomplishments and honors, Arnett was president of the University of Tennessee National Alumni Association and the University of Virginia Law School Alumni Association. He also served as president of the Knoxville Bar Foundation and the Knoxville and Tennessee Bar Associations.
National and international legal organizations recognized Foster’s preeminence by honoring him as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and as Dean and President of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. Mr. Arnett was also a founding member of the Tennessee chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and in 1987 served as its first president.
Silver Star Citation for LT Foster D. Arnett:
Department of the Army, General Orders No. 35 (May 24, 1948)
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Foster D. Arnett, United States Army, for gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving with the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 11th Airborne Division, near Mahoag, Leyte, Philippine Islands, on 12 December 1944. When the force of an enemy banzai attack overran a portion of the battalion defensive perimeter, within which the regimental staff was located, and caused a platoon of men to withdraw to the perimeter seeking more tenable positions, Lieutenant Arnett, although a regimental staff officer with no command responsibilities, perceived immediately that the enemy penetration endangered the entire battalion position. Leaving the relative security of his fox hole, he ran forward to a position in front of the withdrawing platoon. Standing bolt upright, totally exposed, and with utter disregard for the heavy enemy fire all around him, he rallied the platoon with his inspiring display of personal courage and, although receiving serious wounds which later necessitated his evacuation to the United States, led the men in a counterattack which succeeded in re-taking the platoon's position and killing approximately twenty enemy soldiers.
To learn more about Foster's historic unit and the intrepid men who fought in it, you can order Jeremy C. Holm's new book, WHEN ANGELS FALL: From Toccoa to Tokyo, The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II by visiting our online store or purchasing a copy wherever books are sold.