Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps photo of Pfc. William A. Foster provided by the National Archives Catalog.

Photo by Courtesy Photo

Make them count: 3rd Bn., 1st Marines honors World War II Marine with new motto

1 Apr 2024 | Cpl. Willow Marshall 1st Marine Division

Toward the end of 2021, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Bart P. Lambert, the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, started looking for a new motto to represent the Marines and Sailors of the battalion and their legacy. He soon found what he was looking for in an award citation from almost 80 years ago.

The incredible story and sacrifice of William A. Foster, and his last words, “Make them count,” will now accompany the battalion wherever they go.

Foster enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves in April 1944. Up to this point in Foster’s life, he was employed as a planner and shaper at Cleveland’s Star Machine and Tool Company in Cleveland, Ohio, and served in the Ohio National Guard for six years.

Upon enlisting, Foster left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, for bootcamp. In late September, after completing combat training, Pfc. Foster embarked on the USS General C. G. Morton (AP 138) on its way to the Russell Islands in the Pacific. Once there, Foster checked in with his new unit, Kilo Company, 3rd Bn., 1st Marines. A short time later, in April 1945, Foster and his brothers in arms began their push into Okinawa, Japan.

After getting dug into a perimeter defensive position, Foster and a fellow Marine began to engage in a hand grenade duel with infiltrating enemy soldiers. A few moments later, an enemy grenade landed beyond their reach in their foxhole. With no regard for his own safety, Foster dove on the grenade and absorbed the entirety of the explosion.

Through this selfless act of heroism, Foster protected his fellow Marine from serious injury and possible death. Although mortally wounded, Foster refused to give up and be taken out of the fight. He quickly grabbed his two remaining grenades and gave them to his comrade. With his last breath, Foster told him to “make them count.” Later that day, May 2, 1945, Foster succumbed to his wounds.

Now, 80 years later, Sgt. Maj. Douglas E. Gardner, the former senior enlisted leader of 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, is carrying on Foster’s legacy. When Gardner came to the battalion, he was asked by Lambert to help find a new motto that suits the Marines of 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, and the legacy that they are leaving behind as they move forward into a new era.

In January 2022, Gardner requested information about 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, from the history branch of the Marine Corps History Division at Marine Corps University. In the vast amount of information, he received, Gardner began to read the Medal of Honor citations of Marines who served with the battalion.

“Pfc. Foster’s just stuck out to me because I’ve never seen another Medal of Honor citation with specific quotations from a Marine,” explained Gardner.

While reading and understanding the selflessness of Foster, Gardner began to explain this new motto idea of “Make them count” to Lambert. Lambert was fully onboard with choosing Foster’s words to be the new motto. In April 2022, the battalion began using the new motto “Make them count” in the captions of their training updates and products.

During the battalion’s deployment as part of the ground combat element of Marine Rotational Force - Darwin, Lambert received a letter from William S. Darling, a veteran who served in 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, in WW2. He wrote, “I knew Pfc. Bill Foster, he was a tentmate and I heard his last words, because our foxholes were next to each other. We were on the left flank of our line, and a large gap existed further to the left. I am glad to hear the motto of our Bn, "Make them count.”

“To know that there are people who heard those words, actually fought alongside them, that’s why we continue to serve, it’s to be part of a bigger legacy and to continue the legacy of those that have sacrificed so much in the past," said Gardner. "I think that’s a great opportunity for our Marines at 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, to be able to reflect on our past, remember those who have gone before us, and use that to propel how we fight and win battles in the future.”

With the confirmation of Foster’s last words, this new motto is more than just a quote from a citation. “Make them count” is how the Marines and Sailors of 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, remember the legacy and sacrifice of Pfc. William A. Foster, and how the battalion works and fights every day.

I Marine Expeditionary Force