In March 1945, Germany was just weeks away from unconditional surrender to the United States and allied forces. But their soldiers determination made crossing an open field in Germany with no cover a deadly prospect for Staff Sergeant Edward Carter Jr.
SSG Carter and a small group of men were traveling near Speyer, Germany on March 23, 1945. When their tank took heavy fire from far-off rockets, grenades and smaller arms, Carter leapt into action. He toiled to lead the men out of danger, but two were killed and another injured. With survivors pinned down, Carter had to keep going on his own.
The official Medal of Honor citation gives a short but powerful description of what SSG Carter did next:
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.
Carter survived the war, but he would never know what honor awaited him. At the time, Carter was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in Germany. He would also receive a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
It wasn’t until 30 years after his death that a study found many black soldiers were excluded from Medal of Honor considerations after World War II. Carter was identified as a soldier having gone above and beyond the call of duty and he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1997.
A special kind of soldier with endurance and tenacity, SSG Edward Carter Jr. now rests in Arlington National Cemetery among the nation’s greatest heroes.