“Yours beyond the end”:
Staff Sergeant Edward A. Carter Jr.
By the time Edward Carter had turned 24, he had fought alongside the Chinese against the Japanese, served in the Merchant Marine, and, finding that uneventful, joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the fight against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Born on May 26, 1916, in Los Angeles, California, Carter was raised in India and China with his missionary father. His early life was anything but ordinary.
Sensing the coming war and believing the military to be his best option for a career and a future, Carter joined the US Army in September 1941. He left behind a sweetheart, Mildred Hoover, and their baby son, Edward “Buddha” Carter III, born March 27, 1941. Due to racism and segregation, the vast majority of African Americans in World War II were assigned to non-combat units, so despite his impressive record, Carter was assigned to the 3535th Quartermaster Truck Company at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Through his letters home, we come to know a tender side of this experienced warrior. In one late-night letter to his then still-future wife, he refers to Mildred as a combination of “Darling Mill,” “Sweetheart,” “Sweets,” and “Honey bird.” The letter is topped with a sketch of the impression of a kiss. It shows the personal side of a man who was passionate about his family. He would sign off with equal bits of love, “Yours Body & Soul,” “Yours Forever,” or “Yours beyond the end.”
Letter to Mildred from Edward Carter, Ft. Benning, Georgia, February 3, 1942. Gift in Memory of Edward A. Carter, Jr., 2015.057.017
Mildred relocated to Fort Benning, the couple married in June 1942, and a second son was soon on the way. Not only was Carter passionate about his wife and family, he was passionate about his ability and his country. We also come to know his bitter disappointment as he writes to Mildred “…a mop, bucket, and a broom are not worth giving one’s life for.” He is, as he later writes, “first and last an American soldier.”
By the time the 3535th arrived in France on November 13, 1944, Carter had been promoted to Staff Sergeant. It was a rank that he had to give up in order to volunteer for replacement in an infantry regiment after the call was put out among Black soldiers following the losses suffered in the Battle of the Bulge. According to the letter distributed to units, “Non-commissioned officers may accept reduction in order to take advantage of this opportunity.”
After retraining, Carter was attached to the 56th Armored Infantry Battalion, 12th Armored Division. In the Allied push toward the Rhine River in March 1945 they found few bridges left intact over which to advance. Just south of Mannheim, Germany, the town of Speyer was identified for a possible crossing. Just north of the town, Carter and his men encountered heavy fire from the German defenders.
Carter’s heroic actions near Speyer on March 23, 1945, resulted in Carter killing six enemy soldiers and capturing two more, in addition to the Germans killed or wounded by his men. He did this all while seriously wounded. He later wrote to Mildred, “I guess the War Dept. has written you concerning my getting shot up a little…I have nine bullet holes in all.”
V-mail letter to Mildred Carter from Edward Carter, April 4, 1945, Germany. Gift in Memory of Edward A. Carter, Jr., 2015.057.020
Carter recovered in Luxembourg and eventually returned to his unit. He was recommended for and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award. His commander, however, later said he believed Carter deserved the Medal of Honor.
In 1996, the US Government affirmed that seven African Americans, including Staff Sergeant Edward Carter, had been unjustly denied the Medal of Honor for actions during World War II. In a 1997 White House ceremony, Edward Carter III accepted the Medal of Honor from President Bill Clinton on behalf of his father, who passed away in 1963.
Read more about Sgt. Carter and Medal of Honor actions in Staff Sergeant Edward A. Carter Jr.: Medal of Honor Series.
Carter is one of the many heroes you will come to know through his own words in Expressions of America.