Teacher and student from Steamboat Springs High School uncover details of Craig soldier’s life and death
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs High School history teacher Patrick Slowey never expected a research project with the Normandy Institute would lead to fascinating discoveries about a solider from here in Northwest Colorado.
Last year, Slowey heard about the Albert H. Small Student and Teacher Institute, and sent an email to students seeking a research partner for the project, which involved an educational trip to Washington, D.C., and the selection of a World War II solider to study further.
Slowey and junior Margaret Lichtenfels attended lectures and workshops in Washington, D.C., and chose a Colorado solider, Norman Foster, to study.
Foster was a private in the Army who died at 19 during the war, but no other information on his life or death was given to the team.
“He was missing, and they never found his body,” said Slowey, who is an Army veteran.
As part of their research, Slowey and Lichtenfels learned that Foster was from Craig and graduated high school there in 1943 before joining the military. They were also able to find his niece, who lives in Steamboat Springs, and include her as they searched for more primary documents to uncover details about his life.
Slowey and Lichtenfels were able to find out what likely happened to Foster based on firsthand accounts that place him as the driver of one of four tanks preparing to take off from a military ship. The ship hit a magnetic mine, and all but one of the soldiers on board were killed in an explosion that shot the tanks 100 feet into the air.
The information never made it back to Foster’s family, nor did Foster’s body, which Slowey thinks is in relatively shallow water just off the coast of France.
“We think we know where it is,” said Slowey, who is working with the United States Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to possibly retrieve the body and bring Foster’s family closure. “We’re now trying to get Norman’s body.”
The Normandy Institute seeks teacher-student teams like Slowey and Lichtenfels to discover the lost stories of servicemen, or silent heroes, Slowey said, who were killed during the Normandy Campaign in hopes of both preserving the memories of the fallen while using those stories to educate future generations on their sacrifice for freedom.
“You start understanding things in a different context, rather than just a name or a number,” Slowey said.
The project on Foster led Slowey to another research opportunity to study a new soldier for the American Battle Monuments Commission and National History Day.
Foster is studying an Idaho Springs, Colorado, solider, Warren Frye, while 17 other teachers from across the country study other soldiers.
The information gathered will be used as part of a new history curriculum and website, called Understanding Sacrifice, that will be available for use in classrooms later this year.
“We’re trying to put together a story, so that when (students) see a name, it’s not just a name,” Slowey said. “You understand it more in a historical context, instead of just a dry history book.”
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