If someone earns the Medal of Honor, it means that they operated in battle with uncommon valor at the risk of their own lives. PFC Bruce W Carter was an example of such valor during the Vietnam War. His rank was just below that of a Lance Corporal, but he had been trained to lead. That leadership quality is what stood between his men and annihilation.
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August 7, 1969
Quang Tri Province, Vietnam was no one’s favorite deployment. We have written about the Vietnam War many times through many heroes who stepped up when their men were threatened. On August 7, 1969, PFC Bruce W Carter was serving with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division. The unit was conducting Operation Idaho Canyon.
The Marines had been patrolling in squad sized groups. Carter’s group of the 2/3 was patrolling Mutter’s ridge when they encountered entrenched PAVN (Peoples Army of North Vietnam or NVA) forces. They became separated from the lead by a brush fire started by Napalm strikes. The enemy fought back hard – the Marines were severely outnumbered. But PFC Bruce W Carter took the lead, and with total disregard for his own safety, opened fire on the enemy, killing numerous enemy combatants. As Carter began leading his men out of the brush fire, one of the enemy threw a grenade in the midst of the squad. Carter had only one choice to save his Marines: he jumped onto the grenade, taking the full force of the blast. He did not survive. The next morning, when the company began the patrol anew, they met little resistance, finding 46 PAVN dead, some of which were likely from PFC Carter’s actions.
The PFC Bruce W. Carter Medal of Honor Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as grenadier with Company H in connection with combat operations against the enemy. Pfc. Carter’s unit was maneuvering against the enemy during Operation Idaho Canyon and came under a heavy volume of fire from a numerically superior hostile force. The lead element soon became separated from the main body of the squad by a brush fire. Pfc. Carter and his fellow marines were pinned down by vicious crossfire when, with complete disregard for his safety, he stood in full view of the North Vietnamese Army soldiers to deliver a devastating volume of fire at their positions. The accuracy and aggressiveness of his attack caused several enemy casualties and forced the remainder of the soldiers to retreat from the immediate area.
Shouting directions to the marines around him, Pfc. Carter then commenced leading them from the path of the rapidly approaching brush fire when he observed a hostile grenade land between him and his companions. Fully aware of the probable consequences of his action but determined to protect the men following him, he unhesitatingly threw himself over the grenade, absorbing the full effects of its detonation with his body. Pfc. Carter’s indomitable courage, inspiring initiative, and selfless devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
PFC Bruce W Carter’s family was posthumously awarded his Medal of Honor in 1971. His name and valor will not be forgotten.
Featured photo: MOH recipient PFC Bruce W Carter
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