Still, in the quest to understand what makes a soldier go beyond what is expected of him, I found the bittersweet account of Staff Sargeant Edward Allen Carter Jr—and having to delve into that fateful day on Mar. 23, 1945, a date that would eventually earn him the prestigious valor medal, gives me the chills. Because, to cut the story short, Carter has endured multiple shots, for Pete’s sake! But his adrenaline and willpower to earn respect kept him alive with his presence of mind still intact. He managed to capture two remaining Nazi German soldiers, who he then walked back to his unit and interrogated in their native language along the way, all while bearing his wounds. Like serious, severe wounds. How on earth did he stay alive and walk like it was just another day at the office? If you’d tell me Carter was a superhuman, I’d sure as hell believe it!

Destined To Be A Soldier

Carter had a fascinating childhood. He was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1916 to missionary parents. At age 9, his family moved halfway across the globe to her mother’s hometown in Calcutta, India (now known as Kolkata), to start a church. A military base was stationed near their house, and it was there when young Edward started getting interested in the army. Growing up, he had an estranged relationship with his father and ran away from home twice. Eddie, however, managed to tame his rebellious nature and joined the military at 15. When his family was in Shanghai, he snuck out, enrolled in the Chinese Military Academy, and fought alongside the Chinese and British forces during the Japanese invasion in the early 1930s. He’d reached the rank of lieutenant, but his father discovered his enlistment and snitched his age. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop young Ed from pursuing his military career. He eventually left Shanghai, traveled to Spain, and served the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of Americans as soon as he heard of the uprising against the fascists.

With this history in mind, it was safe to say that Carter was already an experienced warrior when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 1941 during the Second World War. He was eager to serve the frontlines, but all these came crashing down when 1) his previous socialist involvement in China and Spain was unraveled and 2) because he was black. It was ironic that World War II broke out because the world was trying to stop and eradicate the racism that Hitler instilled among his men—yet, the armed forces fighting the said war were segregated.

Regardless, Carter persevered and settled to conform to his assigned position. He was a Staff Sargeant when the call for additional manpower was disseminated following the horrific casualty loss in the Battle of Bulge. Carter knew, as grim as this may sound, that this was his chance to join the frontline finally. So, he volunteered alongside other Black soldiers of over 4,000 on the condition that they would be all stripped from their ranks and serve as privates, to which he begrudgingly complied.

That Fateful Day of Mar. 23

On Mar. 23, 1945, Private Carter found himself on top of a tank with his men slowly traversing across the Rhineland en route to Germany for scouting when they were suddenly bombarded. Carter was quick to his feet, docked for covers, and scanned the open field, where he spotted a large warehouse in the middle. A few yards from the house were a combination of bazooka, enemy infantry, and the feared 88-mm gun that could take down their tanks. Knowing this, he stepped up and volunteered to eliminate the threat. He led a three-person team to further scout the area, and almost immediately, they were greeted with intense firing that killed two fellow soldiers and the third one wounded. Despite his wounds and the fact that he is now alone, Carter proceeded with the mission, using the grassy field to his advantage. He stayed low in the area for two hours which was fruitful considering he shot down six of the eight-man German squad and captured the remaining two who surrendered to him. Finally, he reached his unit and relayed valuable intel that would lead to a successful operation.