John Frederick Foertner was born in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, on August 1, 1911, son of Frederick E. and Esther E. (Atkins) Foertner. He received the degree of Bachelor of Arts from Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1931 and in 1935 was awarded his Doctor of Medicine degree from Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut. Appointed Lieutenant (jg) in the Medical Corps of the US Navy on August 4, 1936, he subsequently advanced in rank, attaining that of Captain, to date from January 1, 1952.
Upon receiving his appointment in 1936, he was assigned to the Naval Hospital, Chelsea, Massachusetts, and in June 1937 was transferred to the First Naval District with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, with further duty at the Navy Yard, Boston. He remained there for two months, and in September reported for instruction at the Naval Medical School, Washington, DC. Completing the course there in May 1938, he was next assigned to the Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In October 1938 he joined USS Oklahoma, and from October 1939 to February 1940 was Medical Officer on the staff of Commander Destroyer Division Four, USS Smith flagship. He had similar duty on the staff of Commander Destroyer Division Ten, USS Cushing, flagship, until October 1940, when he was assigned to the Navy Recruiting Station, Des Moines, Iowa. In September 1941 he reported for instruction at the Naval Medical Center and Naval Hospital, Washington, DC. He was there when the United States entered World War II, December 8, 1941, and between January and August 1942 was attached to Lahey Clinic Boston, Massachusetts. Following duty in connection with the establishment of the Naval Hospital, Long Beach, California, he served as Officer in charge of the Radiology Department from the commissioning of that Hospital, December 15, 1942, until January 1944.
He reported aboard USS Pennsylvania in March 1944 and is entitled to the Ribbon for and the facsimile of the Navy Unit Commendation awarded that battleship. The citation follows in part: “For outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific war area from May 4, 1943 to February 10, 1945. . . . . The Pennsylvania was the only battleship to take part in every combat operation during this period from Attu in the Northern area to Lingayen in the Philippines . . . . . A gallant and dependable veteran, the Pennsylvania completed nearly thirty years of unfailing service by her deadly close in bombardment and gun fire support in the recapture of the Philippines, fulfilling her prolonged and vital mission without casualty to herself or her personnel by Japanese fire. . . . .”
Detached from the Pennsylvania in October 1945, following the cessation of hostilities the previous August, he returned to the Naval Hospital, Camp White, Oregon. In April 1946 he transferred to the Naval Hospital, Corona, California, and from September 1947 to October 1948 had instruction at the Naval Hospital Long Beach, California. Following as assignment which extended until June 1951 at the Naval Hospital, Charleston, South Carolina, he returned to the Naval Hospital, Cornna, California, where he is presently serving.
In addition to the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Captain Foertner has the American Defense Service Medal; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four engagement stars; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two stars.