|James W. Carter ABMC webpage and Cleveland Call photo.|
I first learned of his fate while reading a Cleveland, Ohio newspaper. "T-Sgt. James Walker Carter of 217 E. 17th St. met a heroes death on the island of Luzon April 23, according to word received by Miss Lillian Carter, his wife, from the War Department and Lt. Col. George D. Bunch of the 870th Aviation Engineers, who was his commanding officer. Carter was born 35 years ago in Richmond, VA, and met and married his wife in Philadelphia in 1939. He worked with contractors throughout the country and came to Erie in 1941 and was inducted there on January 6, .
'Big Jim' as he was known to his friends, could have possibly avoided death if he had accepted the opportunity offered him just prior to the time his outfit left Jefferson Barracks, where he was stationed. An offer was made to him to serve as an M.P. which he refused because of his admiration for his friends, who would leave him behind if he chose M.P. duty; he had always been known as a man of action. Sgt. Carter was buried with full military honors April 24 on Luzon Island. He is Erie's second casualty of this war." -Cleveland Call and Post, May 26, 1945.
I did a little more searching and found an article about the 870th Engineers in a Baltimore, MD newspaper. "With two battle stars, construction of five major airdromes and a unit citation to their credit, all but 83 of the original 752 men of the 870th Engineer Aviation Battalion expect to be home for Christmas...During their 28 months of oversea's service only one man, T/Sgt. James Carter, Erie, PA, was lost due to enemy action...Every man in the unit wears the gold wreath on his right sleeve, signifying the Unit Citation award for meritorious service on New Guinea. Battle stars are for the New Guinea and the Luzon campaigns." -The Afro-American, September 24, 1945.
The 870th was sent to Japan after T/Sgt. Carter died. Ranking officers thought it was hypocritical to try and change the government and economy of this nation. "First steps toward the democratization of Japan should be taken in America, in the opinion of ARC Field Director Alvin Turner and Capt. Ernest N. Mattison, chaplain, both Washingtonians serving with the 870th Engineer Aviation Battalion here.
'America is in error trying to democratize the rest of the world,' says Mr. Turner. 'People can be made to swallow a thing but they won't always digest it and the chances of making a democracy out of Japan are slim because this nation is fundamentally a feudalistic state.'
By treating people in the United States fairly, especially colored ones, the country can best prevail upon other nations to let the Golden Rule be the international creed, he continues." -The Afro-American, November 24, 1945.
The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains 24 overseas cemeteries and 26 memorials, monument and markers which memorialize the sacrifice of more than 218,000 U.S. servicemen and women.
Find more historical facts and photographs of Erie, Pennsylvania at Old Time Erie