Real Life Action Hero Edward Allen Carter, Jr. Started his Heroic Life at 15
Real Life Action Hero Edward Allen Carter, Jr. Started his Heroic Life at 15

Real Life Action Hero Edward Allen Carter, Jr. Started his Heroic Life at 15

Khalid Elhassan - August 28, 2018

Real Life Action Hero Edward Allen Carter, Jr. Started his Heroic Life at 15
Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. Literal Magazine

Fighting the Fascists in Spain

At some point during his brief stint fighting the Japanese in 1932, Carter came to believe that he had been visited by a spirit, which informed him that he would become a great warrior, but would not die in war. Convinced of his spiritual military destiny, he enrolled in a Chinese military school in Shanghai as soon as he was old enough. In addition to excelling in the common fare of military schools, he also learned German as a fourth language, adding it to the English, Hindi, and Mandarin Chinese, all of which he already spoke fluently.

While in China, Carter became active in leftist politics, and when the Spanish Civil War erupted, it drew him like a magnet. The war pitted fascists under the leadership of general Francisco Franco, generously backed by the Benito Mussolini fascist Italy and Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany, against an elected leftist Republican government. An antifascist to the core, Carter travelled to Europe in order to join the fight on the Republican side.

He made it to Spain, and enlisted in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade – an American volunteer unit composed primarily of leftists, that fought as part of the International Brigade against the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. Unfortunately, the bad guys won, and as Franco’s fascists surged to victory and the Republican government collapsed, Carter and the rest of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade were forced to flee to France in 1938. From there, he made his way to the United States.

Real Life Action Hero Edward Allen Carter, Jr. Started his Heroic Life at 15
Members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Wikimedia

Back in his birthplace after having spent most of his life overseas, Carter took a stab at settling down, and in 1940, while World War II raged in Europe, he met and married his wife Mildred in Los Angeles. However, as the clouds of conflict drew closer, Carter sensed that it would not be long before America was drawn into the fighting. So he enlisted in the US Army in September of 1941, just three months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

With his background and experience, it took only months before Carter was promoted to staff sergeant. However, his background and experience also led to the opening of a counterintelligence file on him: globetrotting African Americans were rarities in those days. Globetrotting African Americas who spoke Hindi, Chinese, and German, and who had fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, were rarer still. The US Army did not know what to make of Carter. Eventually, an unknown intelligence officer deemed it advisable to put him under surveillance because his Spanish Civil War experience meant that he had “been exposed to communism“. The counterintelligence file also noted: “Subject… capable of having connections with subversive activities due to… early years (until 1938) in the Orient“.

Real Life Action Hero Edward Allen Carter, Jr. Started his Heroic Life at 15
Staff Sergeant Edward Allen Carter. Wikimedia

Fighting the Nazis and Earning a Medal of Honor

Carter was shipped to Europe in 1944, but with typical Army logic, he was not assigned to one of the black combat units – few as those were in the day’s racially segregated US military – but to supply duties. However, racism had to make way, at least partially, to the dictates of necessity in December of 1944, thus allowing Carter yet another opportunity to engage in combat in the front lines against the bad guys.

On December 16th, the Germans launched a surprise strategic offensive that caught the Allies off guard. As the ensuing Battle of the Bulge raged and the Army desperately fought to contain the Germans, it ran short of replacement combat troops. So general Eisenhower instituted the volunteer Ground Force Replacement Command for rear echelon troops of all races. Staff Sergeant Carter jumped at the chance to have a go at the Nazis, and immediately volunteered for combat duty.

However, while the ad hoc units cobbled up by the Ground Force Replacement Command were racially integrated, they were integrated on the basis that no black soldiers were to command white ones. To join, Carter had to accept a demotion from staff sergeant to private. Taking a whack at the Nazis in person was worth it, so Carter accepted. On March 23rd, 1945, near Speyer, Germany, he was riding on a tank when it was hit. As his medal citation described it:

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“.

He spent a month recovering in a hospital from his wounds. He was then restored to his rank of staff sergeant, and spent the rest of the war training troops. He tried to reenlist in 1949, but by then the Red Scare was on and America was in the grip of anticommunist hysteria. Carter’s background in China, which had recently fallen to the communists, and in the Spanish Civil War, where he had fought with the leftists of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, made him suspect. His bid for reenlistment was denied, and he was discharged from the Army.

He resumed civilian life, working in the tire business, and became a dedicated family man. In 1962, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, which doctors attributed to wartime shrapnel still embedded in his neck. It killed him the following year. His wartime heroics had earned him a recommendation for a Medal of Honor, but due to racism, it was downgraded to a Distinguished Service. It was not until 1997 that the injustice was corrected, and Carter was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor his actions had earned him in 1945.

Real Life Action Hero Edward Allen Carter, Jr. Started his Heroic Life at 15
Edward Allen Carter’s headstone in Arlington National Cemetery. Weebly

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources & Further Reading

Black Then – Edward Allen Carter: United States Army Staff Sergeant and Medal of Honor Recipient

California Center for Military History – Staff Sergeant Edward A. Carter, Medal of Honor Recipient

US Army Online – Medal of Honor: African American Hero Recognized Decades After Brave Act

War History Online – Fought Japanese in China When 15, Then Franco in Spain, and in WWII Europe Killed 6 Germans and Took 2 POW

Weebly – Edward Allen Carter II

Wikipedia – Edward A. Carter, Jr.

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