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First Name: Edward

Last Name: Carter Jr.

Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Los Angeles, CA
Middle Name: Allen

Date of Birth: 26 May 1916

Date of Death: 30 January 1963

Rank: Sergeant First Class

Years Served: 1937 - 1938, 1941 - 1949
Edward Allen Carter Jr.

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Edward Allen Carter, Jr.
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Staff Sergeant Edward Allen Carter, Jr. (26 May 1916 - 30 January 1963) was a U.S. Army soldier who was posthumously, and belatedly, awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during World War II. He was one of seven African-American soldiers who were belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor on 13 January 1997 by President Bill Clinton.

Carter was born on 26 May 1916 in Los Angeles, CA. He was the son of an African-American father and an East Indian mother who were traveling missionaries. Carter grew up in India and then moved to Shanghai, China.

While in Shanghai, Carter ran away from home and joined the Chinese Nationalist Army fighting against invading Japanese. He had to leave the Nationalist Army because his father revealed that he was not yet 18 years old.

After riding a merchant ship to Manila and being rebuffed by the U.S. Army when he tried to enlist, he eventually made his way to Europe and joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. This was an American volunteer unit supporting the Spanish Loyalists fighting against General Francisco Franco's fascist regime during the Spanish Civil War. That 2 1/2-year experience exposed him to fierce combat and got him captured. Later, it also cast a political cloud over his loyalty to the United States. Many of those in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade turned out to be members of the U.S. Communist Party, a fact that tarnished the reputations and careers of the hundreds who weren't members.

U.S. Army

It was on Carter's return from Spain that he joined the U.S. Army on 26 September 1941. After basic training he was assigned to Fort Benning, GA, and, as a result of his previous combat experience, he stood out among the other recruits. In less than a year, he had achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant and was made mess sergeant of the 3535 Quartermaster Truck Company.

On 13 November 1944, his truck company arrived in Europe and was assigned to transporting supplies to the fighting forces. For three months straight, he began every day by volunteering for combat. No luck. By late February of 1945, however, things had changed. The Battle of the Bulge had cut through the Army's infantry ranks like a scythe. Reinforcements were needed desperately.

Provisional companies generally were established during, and in the wake of, the Battle of the Bulge, which took place during the winter of 1944-1945. Black support and combat-support soldiers, and some whites, were allowed to volunteer for combat duty and were given training in small-unit tactics. Formed into provisional units, they were used to augment depleted divisions.

Army brass appealed for volunteers among black troops and he was among the first chosen. Like the other 2,600 black volunteers, he was forced to give up his rank and become a private. He removed his sergeant stripes and awaited assignment. It didn't take long. His unit was organized into the 1st Provisional Company, assigned to the 12th Armored Division, then assigned again to the 56th Armored Infantry Battalion. It wasn't long until they gave him his staff sergeant stripes back. Then they made him a squad leader of Infantry. The 12th Armored Division was detached to General George Patton's 3rd Army.

On 23 March 1945, the 12th Armored was speeding toward the city of Speyer. A bridge over the Rhine was there and still intact. The 714th Tank Battalion was leading the way, the black volunteers were clinging to the backs of the 714th's rumbling Shermans. Suddenly, German antitank rockets started screaming through the air, and machine gun fire roared. His squad took cover. He noticed that the rocket fire was coming from a large warehouse ahead of him. He volunteered to lead a three-man patrol to take the warehouse. Clambering over the embankment, he saw one of his men cut down instantly. He ordered the other two to turn back. Before they could reach the embankment, one was killed, the other wounded. He ran on alone.

Before he reached the barn surrounding the warehouse, he'd taken five bullets and three pieces of shrapnel. He crawled the last few yards, blood and dirt staining his fatigues. For two hours, he waited. Finally, convinced he was dead, an eight-man patrol came out to make sure. Waiting for his moment, he opened up with his .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun. Within seconds, six Germans were dead. He took the other two as prisoners. Using the two as human shields, he marched back across the open field to his company. His commanding officer wanted him evacuated to a medic's tent so his wounds could be treated. He refused. Instead, he climbed the stairs to the observation post and pointed out several German machine-gun nests. Then he turned his prisoners over for interrogation. Utilizing his information, the road to Speyer was cleared, and the city was taken in two days. Less than a month later, he reported back to his commanding officer, ready for duty.

A few days later his commanding officer got a telegram from the Army hospital in the rear, reporting that Carter was missing, apparently gone AWOL from the hospital. Word was sent that it was ok and that he was back with his unit. He soldiered on to the end of the war in Germany. In July of 1945, his commanding officer signed a recommendation that he be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest decoration for valor in combat. The DSC was approved, one of only nine awarded to black soldiers for heroism during the war.

After the war Carter went back to civilian life but was not happy so he decided that it was time to get back in uniform. The Army snapped him up for a three-year tour at his old rank. Not long after that, he was promoted to Sergeant First Class. The brass chose Carter and two other senior non-commissioned officers to train and organize a new all-black National Guard engineer unit in Southern California. Almost from the moment he re-enlisted, however, the old questions about his affiliation with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade were raised again. Army counterintelligence investigators came to interview Carter. On 21 September 1949 when his enlistment ended, he announced his intention to re-enlist for another tour, however his commanders said no. He would not be allowed to re-enlist, they said, without the specific permission of the Adjutant General of the Army. He was stunned. After years of trying to find out what the problem was and running into walls of silence, he lived out the rest of his life on the West coast working at a tire plant. Late in 1962, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died on 30 January 1963 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA.

He died without a single thought that more than three decades later he would become California's most decorated black hero of World War II. He was buried in the Sawtelle National Cemetery in Los Angeles.

That might have been the end, except that a study was undertaken by the U.S. Army in 1995-96 to determine why no black soldiers in World War II had received a Medal of Honor. The study focused on the nine black soldiers who had earned the DSC. A special Army Awards Board panel determined that seven of those DSC recipients, Carter included, should have their awards upgraded to the highest combat award for valor, the Medal of Honor. President William J. Clinton in 1997 righted some of the wrongs inflicted on Staff Sergeant Edward Allen Carter, Jr. during his lifetime when he posthumously awarded him this country's highest decoration for heroism in combat, the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, Seventh Army Infantry, Company Number 1 (Provisional), 56th Armored Infantry Battalion, 12th Armored Division.

Place and date: Near Speyer, Germany, 23 March 1945.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 23 March 1945, near Speyer, Germany. When the tank on which he was riding received heavy bazooka and small arms fire, Sergeant Carter voluntarily attempted to lead a three-man group across an open field. Within a short time, two of his men were killed and the third seriously wounded. Continuing on alone, he was wounded five times and finally forced to take cover. As eight enemy riflemen attempted to capture him, Sergeant Carter killed six of them and captured the remaining two. He then crossed the field using as a shield his two prisoners from which he obtained valuable information concerning the disposition of enemy troops. Staff Sergeant Carter's extraordinary heroism was an inspiration to the officers and men of the Seventh Army Infantry Company Number 1 (Provisional) and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.

Later, General John Keane, the Army's Vice Chief of Staff, presented his family with a set of corrected military records to remove the stain of suspicion that declassified Army intelligence records revealed had no basis in fact. Keane said he regretted this sad chapter in Army history and apologized. President Clinton later in a personal letter to his wife also apologized.

The day after Carter was awarded the Medal of Honor; this American hero was re-interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Army Good Conduct Medal
American Defense Service Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal

Combat Infantryman Badge


MV SSG Edward A. Carter, Jr. (T-AK 4544) named in honor of the Medal of Honor recipient, is a container ship in the United States Navy Military Sealift Command, one of 36 ships that are a part of the Prepositioning Program.

Death and Burial

Staff Sergeant Edward Allen Carter, Jr. died of lung cancer on 30 January 1963 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 59, Grave 451.

Honoree ID: 1325   Created by: MHOH




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