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The Mass Media

A Battle for Honor

The cover of Allene Carter´s book, Honoring Sergeant Carter
Redeeming a Black WWII Hero´s Legacy, the story of her father-in-law´s World War II military service.
The cover of Allene Carter´s book, Honoring Sergeant Carter

“No blacks who fought in WWII received the Congressional Medal of Honor…Sergeant Carter being one of them,” remarked Mrs. Allene G. Carter, author of Honoring Sergeant Carter, in a talk last Tuesday, February 24 in the Wheatley Student Lounge. Sergeant Carter was Mrs. Carter’s father-in-law and her book reveals the untold story of why the American government withheld Sergeant Carter’s Medal of Honor until 1996, over 30 years after his death in 1963.

The author recounted how she uncovered Sergeant Carter’s heroic war story and eventually received a public apology from President Clinton for the oppressive manner in which the officer was treated.

Carter enlisted in the Army in 1941 and quickly distinguished himself from other recruits; he was promoted to staff sergeant in less than a year.

In 1944, he and his company were assigned to transport supplies to the fighting forces in Europe. Carter repeatedly volunteered to join combat, but was turned down because African-American troops only fought when the Army desperately needed backup.

Carter finally got his chance, but was forced to give up his rank. On March 23, his division was on its way to Speyer, Germany, when the convoy was attacked. Carter led three men to the enemy position, two were killed and the third was seriously wounded. When eight enemy riflemen tried to capture him, Carter killed six and captured the remaining two.

His heroics earned the Distinguished Service Cross. Carter returned to Los Angeles in 1946 to a hero’s welcome. After a short stint running his own business, he decided to re-enlist. He was quickly promoted to sergeant first class, and the Army chose him to train a new National Guard engineering unit made up entirely of African-Americans.

At the end of his three-year tour, Carter tried to re-enlist and was once again denied, this time because he had fought with the Chinese and the Spanish and therefore had “connections to communism.” He died of lung cancer in 1963.

Thirty-three years later, in 1996, the late sergeant’s wife, Mildred, received a call to inform her that her husband was to posthumously receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Allene Carter was stunned it had taken so long to recognize her father-in-law’s valiant actions and became determined to find out why he was pushed to the back burner. Her search for answers would lead her to a network of lies woven by military intelligence and the FBI.

Although Carter had never met her father-in-law she struggled to get public acknowledgment of his heroism. In 1998, President Clinton formally apologized to Sergeant Carter’s wife, writing, “Had I known when I presented this Medal of Honor two years ago, I would have personally apologized to you and your family.”

The trend is for black war heroes to receive recognition for their brave achievements in battle long after their deeds or even long after their deaths. One speaker noted, “It is especially important to recognize these facts because we are in a time of war right now.” An audience member pointed out that if blacks had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor during WWII, perhaps white Americans’ perception of blacks would have changed. At the time, blacks were fighting and dying for a country that did not even recognize their courage.

Carter’s book uncovers problems that are not often brought to public attention. To learn more about Sergeant Carter’s story or to obtain a copy of her book, visit www.honoringsergeantcarter.com.