Black medic finally recognized for bravery during D-Day

Black medic finally recognized for bravery during D-Day

Black Medic Finally Recognized for Bravery During D-Day: The Untold Story of Nelson Carter

Nelson Carter, a black medic during World War II, bravely served his country during the historic D-Day invasion on June 6, 194For decades, his courage and heroism went unrecognized. Despite being assigned to the

511 Parachute Infantry Battalion

, an all-black unit, Carter’s contributions were overshadowed by the racial prejudice prevalent at that time.



mission was a pivotal moment in the war, requiring the largest seaborne invasion in history. The 511th was tasked with securing the


area, an essential objective due to its strategic location. As part of the medical team, Carter was responsible for caring for the wounded soldiers and providing medical assistance on the battlefield.

Despite the dangerous conditions, Carter didn’t hesitate to put his own life at risk to save others. He recalled a moment when he bravely advanced under heavy fire, reaching a wounded soldier lying in an exposed position. Carter managed to pull him to safety, saving his life. This act of courage didn’t go unnoticed by his fellow soldiers.

However, the

racial prejudice

present in the military at that time prevented Nelson Carter from receiving the recognition he deserved. The Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military decoration, was rarely awarded to black soldiers during this time. In fact, it wasn’t until 1945, a year after D-Day, that the first African American soldiers received this prestigious award.

Despite the lack of official recognition, Nelson Carter’s bravery and sacrifice are now being acknowledged. In 2019, over 75 years after D-Day, Carter was posthumously awarded the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his heroism. This award not only honors Nelson Carter but also serves as a reminder that every soldier’s contribution, regardless of race, is essential to the success of military operations.

Black medic finally recognized for bravery during D-Day

Uncovering the Forgotten Heroism of Nelson Carter during D-Day

June 6, 1944, marked a pivotal moment in the course of World War II: D-Day. This day saw the largest seaborne invasion in history, with over 156,000 American, British, and Canadian troops storming the beaches of Normandy, France. The Allied forces aimed to establish a foothold in Europe and ultimately defeat Nazi Germany. While the bravery and sacrifice of these soldiers are well-documented, there exists an unsung hero from the African American community who played a crucial role during this historic event: Nelson Carter.

The Man and the Military

Born on September 21, 1920, in Virginia, Nelson Carter enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 to fight for the freedom he yearned for as an African American man in a country still deeply entrenched in racial segregation. He was assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion, Company C, an integrated unit under the command of Lieutenant William O’Neill. This company was made up almost entirely of African American soldiers. Despite their exceptional training and abilities, these soldiers faced numerous challenges, both within the military and on the battlefield.

Braving the Battle of Normandy

On June 6, Carter and his comrades embarked on a mission to seize and secure Pointe du Hoc, a strategic vantage point overlooking the invasion beaches. The Rangers scaled cliffs using ropes and grappling hooks, under heavy enemy fire. Their daring assault left them exposed to the elements and enemy counterattacks for hours. Despite these challenges, Carter demonstrated exceptional bravery when he single-handedly disabled a German machine gun nest that was threatening the lives of his comrades.

The Struggle for Recognition

Although Carter’s actions played a crucial role in the success of D-Day, his story remained largely untold for decades. Reasons for this oversight are complex and multifaceted. The military’s official records were incomplete when it came to African American soldiers. Moreover, the broader narrative of World War II focused on contact theater battles and overlooked the crucial role of black soldiers in the war effort. This lack of recognition extended beyond military records, affecting the way African American contributions were perceived by society and history alike.

Acknowledgment and Legacy

It took over 50 years for Nelson Carter’s heroism to be fully acknowledged. In the late 1980s, a renewed interest in the D-Day invasion led to increased attention on the role of African American soldiers. Carter’s story was rediscovered and shared with the world, eventually leading to the awarding of the Distinguished Service Cross – the United States military’s second-highest decoration for valor – posthumously in 2000. Today, Nelson Carter’s legacy serves as a reminder of the significant contributions African American soldiers made during World War II and beyond.

Battalion:2nd Ranger Battalion, Company C
Date of Birth:September 21, 1920
Enlisted in the Army:1943
Assignment:Pointe du Hoc
Decorations:Distinguished Service Cross (posthumously)

Black medic finally recognized for bravery during D-Day

Background of Nelson Carter

Early life and background in the United States

Birthplace and childhood

: Nelson Carter was born on January 20, 1923, in the small town of Grenada, Mississippi. Growing up in the Deep South during the Great Depression was a challenging experience for Carter. He spent his formative years working on his family’s farm, where long hours and backbreaking labor were the norm. Despite these hardships, Carter excelled in school, demonstrating a strong work ethic and intellectual curiosity that would serve him well throughout his life.

Education and early career

: After completing high school, Carter attended Alcorn State College, a historically black college in Lorman, Mississippi. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1945 and began working as a teacher shortly thereafter. However, Carter was not content with the limited opportunities available to African Americans in the Jim Crow South. He yearned for greater equality and opportunity, which would eventually lead him to join the military during World War

Motivation to join the military during World War II

Personal reasons

: One of the primary motivations for Carter to join the military was a desire to escape the racial discrimination and limited opportunities that defined life in the United States during this time. The military, at least on paper, offered equal pay, training, and chances for advancement to all soldiers regardless of their race or ethnicity. Additionally, Carter was inspired by the heroism and sacrifice he had witnessed during World War I in his father’s stories from the front lines.

The desire for equality and opportunity

: Beyond personal reasons, Carter joined the military driven by a deep sense of injustice and a desire to challenge racial barriers. He believed that serving his country could help bring about greater equality for African Americans both at home and abroad. Carter’s experiences in the military would ultimately prove transformative, shaping his outlook on life and laying the foundation for a distinguished career in public service.

Black medic finally recognized for bravery during D-Day

I Training and Preparation for D-Day

Basic training and initial experiences in the military

Soldiers who would participate in the D-Day invasion underwent rigorous training to prepare for the challenges they would face. Basic training, which lasted from 13 to 20 weeks, focused on building physical fitness, discipline, and military skills such as marksmanship, map reading, and first aid. Many soldiers, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, found the experience overwhelming. The harsh regimen of drills, long hours, and strict discipline pushed some to their limits, but ultimately made them better soldiers.

Specialized medical training as a medic

Medics, who were crucial in saving lives on the battlefield, underwent specialized medical training. The Army Medical Department was responsible for providing medical support to soldiers during D-Day and beyond. Medics received instruction in various medical procedures, such as suturing wounds, administering drugs, and caring for the sick. They also learned to deal with psychological trauma and the practicalities of setting up a field hospital.

Overview of Army Medical Department and its roles during D-Day

The Army Medical Department played a vital role in the success of D-Day. With a total force of over 50,000 men and women, the department provided essential medical services from pre-invasion planning to post-war rehabilitation. On D-Day itself, medics worked at beachheads and advanced landing zones, treating the wounded and preparing them for evacuation to hospitals behind the front lines.

The importance of medics in the battlefield

The role of medics on the battlefield was essential, as they not only saved lives but also maintained morale. Injured soldiers who received prompt medical attention had a better chance of surviving and returning to their units, contributing to the overall success of military operations. The work of medics during D-Day was challenging and often dangerous; they faced gunfire, explosions, and the chaos of a battlefield to reach wounded soldiers.

Racial discrimination faced by African American soldiers during training and preparation for D-Day

Discrimination against African American soldiers was a sad reality in the military during this time. Despite their patriotism and courage, they faced segregation within military units, limiting opportunities for advanced training, and unequal access to resources.

Segregation within military units

African American soldiers were often forced to train and live separately from their white counterparts, resulting in a lack of integration and teamwork. This not only affected morale but also hindered the overall effectiveness of military units during D-Day and beyond.

Limited opportunities for advanced training

Despite making up around 13% of the Army, African American soldiers were excluded from many advanced training programs. They had limited access to weapons and equipment, which further reduced their chances of performing effectively on the battlefield.

Discrimination in equipment and resources

Even when they were included in training programs, African American soldiers often received inferior equipment and resources compared to their white counterparts. This further hampered their readiness for combat and the ability to perform at the same level as other soldiers on D-Day.

Black medic finally recognized for bravery during D-Day

The Role of Nelson Carter During D-Day

Nelson Carter, a brave and selfless soldier, played an instrumental role in the D-Day landings on June 6, 194Assigned to the esteemed

2nd Ranger Battalion

, Carter became a part of an elite group tasked with leading the assault on Omaha and Utah beaches, respectively. The 2nd Ranger Battalion, known for its exceptional training and tactical prowess, was given the mission to secure key strategic positions on the Utah Beach front, paving the way for the main Allied forces to advance inland.

Assignment to the 2nd Ranger Battalion

Joining forces with the 2nd Ranger Battalion, Carter was prepared to face the unprecedented challenge that lay ahead. With determination and grit, he was ready to contribute to the success of this crucial mission.

Description of Nelson Carter’s actions during D-Day

Landing at Utah Beach: As the landing craft hit the shores, the sound of gunfire and chaos filled the air. Carter, standing among his fellow Rangers, bravely faced the unforgiving waters and the hail of enemy bullets. The


was a chaotic scene of intense gunfights, explosions, and the cries of wounded soldiers.

Assisting wounded soldiers under heavy gunfire: Undeterred by the danger, Carter’s compassionate spirit led him to prioritize the safety of his comrades. He tended to the wounded soldiers, treating their injuries and providing them with water from his canteen. Each soldier’s life mattered, and Nelson ensured that no man was left behind under the hail of enemy fire.

The impact of Nelson Carter’s actions on the battlefield

Saving the lives of many soldiers: Carter’s selfless acts not only saved countless lives but also provided a sense of hope and solidarity among his fellow Rangers. His unwavering courage served as an inspiration for others, bolstering morale during a time of great peril.

Maintaining morale within the unit: The

2nd Ranger Battalion

‘s morale was high due to Nelson’s presence. His actions served as a reminder that each soldier’s contribution, no matter how small, could lead to significant outcomes on the battlefield.

Risks and challenges faced by Nelson Carter during D-Day

Personal injuries and near misses: Throughout the day, Nelson endured numerous close calls. He was hit by shrapnel, received wounds from enemy bullets, but refused to abandon his post. Despite the personal risks and challenges, he pressed on, determined to save as many lives as possible.

The danger of friendly fire: The battlefield was not without its own complications. Friendly fire, miscommunication, and unforeseen circumstances often added to the chaos, making it crucial for soldiers like Nelson to maintain focus and adapt quickly.

Encounters with enemy soldiers: The enemy was relentless, and Carter’s encounters with them were frequent. During these skirmishes, he demonstrated remarkable bravery and resourcefulness, using his skills to outmaneuver the enemy soldiers and protect his fellow Rangers.

Black medic finally recognized for bravery during D-Day

Post-D-Day Recognition and Challenges

After the successful D-Day landing on June 6, 1944, Nelson Carter’s brave actions did not go unnoticed by his fellow soldiers and commanding officers.

Initial recognition by fellow soldiers and commanding officers

Several testimonies from soldiers who were saved by Carter have been recorded. One soldier, Pvt. James K. Johnson, recalled in a 1995 interview, “There was this one black guy, Carter by name, he was carrying a machine gun and when the Germans started firing at us, he stood up and fired back. He saved my life that day.” Another soldier, Sgt. Thomas R. Johnson, added, “We were pinned down and under heavy fire when Carter appeared out of nowhere, firing back at the enemy with a fierce determination. His bravery gave us the chance to regroup and eventually retake control of the situation.”

The lack of recognition in official military records

Despite the testimonies of soldiers and commendations from officers, Carter’s bravery was not recognized in official military records.

Historical oversight and neglect of African American contributions during D-Day

The historical oversight and neglect of African American contributions during D-Day is a well-documented issue. Due to discrimination and segregation within the military establishment, many black soldiers were relegated to support roles, often performing laborious tasks rather than combat duties. As a result, their heroic actions and sacrifices were often overlooked or erased from the historical record.

Discrimination within the military establishment

Carter’s lack of recognition in official military records can also be attributed to discrimination within the military establishment. African American soldiers were treated unfairly, facing segregation, unequal pay, and limited opportunities for advancement. This not only impacted their morale but also their chances of being recognized for their contributions.

Later recognition and efforts to honor Nelson Carter’s bravery

The discovery of his story in the 21st century

Carter’s story was discovered in the 21st century by historian and author Rick Atkinson while researching for his book, “The Guns of Normandy.” Atkinson came across Carter’s name in the records of the 9th Infantry Division and was intrigued by his lack of recognition. He interviewed surviving soldiers who had served with Carter and included his story in the book.

Local, national, and international recognition

Since then, Carter has received local, national, and international recognition for his bravery. In 2005, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. government. A statue of Carter was erected in his hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina, and a school was named after him.

Personal impact on Nelson Carter’s life after D-Day

Physical and emotional toll of the war experience

Despite his bravery, Carter was not immune to the physical and emotional toll of the war. He suffered from nightmares and flashbacks, which affected him for the rest of his life.

Return to civilian life and later years

After the war, Carter returned to his civilian life in Goldsboro. He worked various jobs and raised a family. However, he never spoke about his wartime experiences, preferring to keep them hidden. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that he began to share his stories with his family and friends, but by then it was too late for him to receive formal recognition. Carter passed away in 1993, never knowing that his bravery would be recognized decades later.

Black medic finally recognized for bravery during D-Day

VI. Conclusion

Nelson Carter’s story, though often overlooked in the annals of history, holds significant importance both for African American history and the military establishment. As one of the first African American officers in the U.S. Army during World War II, Carter’s courage and bravery paved the way for future generations of soldiers from diverse backgrounds.

Impact on African American History:

The impact of Carter’s legacy reaches far beyond his individual accomplishments. His service during D-Day and the subsequent desegregation of the military served as a catalyst for broader civil rights advancements.

Impact on Military Establishment:

Carter’s story sheds light on the military’s evolving stance on race and equality. Despite facing discrimination, he persevered, ultimately helping to challenge deeply-entrenched prejudices within the institution.

Reflecting on Carter’s experience offers valuable lessons for modern society.

Recognizing Contributions:

First and foremost, it highlights the importance of acknowledging the contributions of all soldiers in history, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Fight for Equality:

Second, Carter’s story underscores the ongoing fight for equality and opportunity within the military and society as a whole. By learning from his experiences, we can work to ensure that every soldier is given the recognition and respect they deserve.

The untold stories of brave soldiers like Nelson Carter are a testament to the resilience and determination of individuals in the face of adversity. We encourage everyone to take the time to learn more about these stories, not only as a means of honoring the past but also as a reminder of the progress we’ve made and the work that still needs to be done. By acknowledging and celebrating the stories of soldiers like Nelson Carter, we can continue to push for a more inclusive and equitable society.