b. 26/05/1916 Los Angeles, California. d. 30/01/1963 Los Angeles, California.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 25/03/1945 Speyer, Germany.
Carter was born in Los Angeles, California in 1916. He was the son of missionaries, with a black American father and an East Indian mother, he grew up in India and then moved to Shanghai, China. He was fluent in 4 languages: English, Hindi, German and Mandarin.
While in Shanghai in 1932, Carter ran away from home and joined the Chinese Nationalist Army fighting against invading Japanese during the Shanghai Incident. He eventually had to leave the Nationalist Army because he was only 15. He eventually made his way to Europe and joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which was an American volunteer unit supporting the Spanish Loyalists fighting against General Francisco Franco’s regime during the Spanish Civil War. He married Mildred Hoover in 1940 and together they had two sons, Edward III (born March 27, 1941) and William (born 1944).
Carter had entered the Army on September 26, 1941. 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.
He was member of a unique type of organization — the Seventh Army Infantry Company Number 1 (Provisional), 56th Armored Infantry Battalion, 12th Armored Division near Speyer, Germany. The 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.
On March 23, 1945, Carter, a 28-year-old infantry staff sergeant, heroically acted when the tank on which he was riding was hit by bazooka fire. Dismounted, Carter led three soldiers across an open field. In the process, two of the men were killed and the other seriously wounded. Carter continued alone and was wounded five times before being forced to take cover. Eight German soldiers tried to capture him, but he killed six and captured the remaining two. He used the two captured Germans as a shield from enemy fire as he recrossed the field. His prisoners provided valuable information on enemy-troop disposition for his unit. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
On September 21, 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 connected with the shrapnel which was still in his neck. He died on January 30, 1963, without an inkling that he would become, more than three decades later, 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 for a study undertaken by the United States Army in 1995 to 1996 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, himself included, should have their awards upgraded to the highest combat award, the Medal of Honor. President William J. Clinton on 13 January 1997 righted some of the wrongs inflicted on him during his lifetime when he posthumously awarded him this country’s highest decoration for heroism in combat, the Medal of Honor.
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 show 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 he was awarded the Medal of Honor, this American hero was reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery.
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.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
SECTION 59, GRAVE 451
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.