A well-grounded exposé of the official racism that for more than half a century denied due honor to a combat hero, as told by his daughter-in-law and historian Allen (The Port Chicago Mutiny, 1989).
Until the final months of WWII, African-American soldiers served in segregated units and, with a few exceptions such as the Tuskegee Airmen, were kept unarmed and away from the fighting. When, after the Battle of the Bulge, the army finally allowed black soldiers to volunteer for front-line duty, a young, mixed-race noncommissioned officer named Eddie Carter transferred into George Patton’s command and, in one of the first battles to take place on German soil, exhibited great heroism under fire, saving the lives of his men while silencing a Wehrmacht line and suffering substantial injuries. Carter received a Distinguished Service Medal and by any consideration deserved the Medal of Honor. But none of the 294 medals of that exalted class awarded in WWII went to any of the 1.2 million African-Americans who served. In 1992, following pressure by veterans’ groups, the Army investigated this inequity, and seven years later, Bill Clinton awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor to Carter, who died in 1963. The authors attribute the Army’s failure to recognize Carter earlier to several causes, not least of them the undisguised racism of General Mark Clark, who considered Carter politically suspect because he had served as a volunteer in antifascist forces during the Spanish Civil War and had openly complained about the treatment of black servicemen after the war, commenting, “We liberated Europe, but here at home we are not free.” Clark’s opposition not only kept Carter from earning due recognition, but also prevented him from reenlisting in the Army despite his evident skill as a soldier.
The authors do a commendable job of showing just how righteous Carter’s cause was, bringing deserved honor to their subject.