|Download PDF of this full issue: v29n2.pdf (11.4 MB)|
Army Apologizes To World War II Vet
By Robert Burns
WASHINGTON, Nov 10 (AP)
Nearly three years after President Clinton righted a wrong by awarding the Medal of Honor to the late Edward A. Carter Jr. for World War II heroics, the Army is officially acknowledging that it inflicted more injustices on Carter than even the president knew.
In a ceremony today in the Pentagon's historic Hall of Heroes, the Army was apologizing to Carter's family for having secretly investigated him as a suspected communist and barred him from re-enlisting in September 1949. The Army has determined the charges of disloyalty had no basis in fact.
The damage done to Carter was brought to light last spring by U.S. News & World Report, which chronicled a long struggle by Allene Carter, the wife of Carter's eldest son, Edward Carter III, to uncover the truth about her father-in-law, restore his good name and force the Army to admit its mistake.
"It's an end to that dark cloud that has been hanging over the family for about 50 years now," Mrs. Carter said in an interview Tuesday. "It's actually a vindication. It means more to the family" than the Medal of Honor award.
Last August, Clinton wrote to Carter's widow, Mildred, to apologize for the Army's actions.
"Had I known this when I presented his Medal of Honor two years ago, I would have personally apologized to you and your family," Clinton wrote, referring to the White House ceremony in January 1997. "It was truly our loss that he was denied the opportunity to continue to serve in uniform the nation he so dearly loved."
Carter died in Los Angeles in 1963 at age 47.
Today's ceremony at the Pentagon marks an official admission by the Army that it erred. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records has corrected all of Carter's military records, and his family is being presented with three posthumous awards for Carter's conduct and service in Germany during World War II.
Last spring Allene Carter received 57 pages of Army documents declassified in response to her Freedom of Information Act requests. The counterintelligence records showed the Army opened a file on Carter in 1942, just months after he had first enlisted. His commanders in every unit he served in filed secret reports on him, including such details as the publications he read and clubs he joined.
In an announcement of today's ceremony, the Army called the investigation of Carter an "injustice from a time when an anxious nation saw the communist philosophy as a threat to America's democratic values." Mrs. Carter said she believes it was based more on racism than anti-communism.
The trigger for the Army's suspicions about Carter apparently was his record of having fought for the socialists in the Spanish Civil War against Gen. Francisco Franco's fascists. The son of a traveling missionary who had settled his family in Shanghai, Carter ran away from home and eventually found his way to Europe where he became a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, an American volunteer unit that fought against the fascists before being forced to flee into France in 1938.
In 1940, Carter came to America and a year later he enlisted in the Army. On March 23, 1945, 11 days after arriving on the European front, he found himself on the march with a 12th Armored Division tank battalion near Speyer, Germany, when the tank he was riding sustained heavy fire. In leading a three-man patrol across an open field, two were killed and Carter was wounded five times.
An eight-man German patrol approached the blood-soaked Carter, thinking he was dead. He opened fire with a .45-caliber submachine gun, killing six and capturing the two others. Using the two as human shields, he returned to his company. His prisoners provided valuable information on German troop movements.
At the Jan. 13, 1997, White House ceremony, Clinton presented Medals of Honor for seven black World War II veterans, only one of whom was still alive. Carter and the six others became the first black soldiers of that war to receive the nation's highest honor for heroism in combat. The next day Carter was reburied with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. He had been buried at a military cemetery in Westwood, California.