East Texas Heroes: James Carter

He had a mind for technology and a heart for America.  James Carter was in the thick of battle serving in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II.  And his job relaying and receiving radio messages was vital to his fleet.

"When we were anchored on the beach at Okinawa, these Japanese kamikazes were hitting ships," Carter told us, "you never knew when they were going to hit you."

It was a fear he lived with time and time again during battles in the South Pacific but a fear he faced bravely.  He knew he wanted to serve and enlisted in the Navy in Dallas in December 1943.

"At that time we all had that opinion or idea that we didn't want another nation or Japanese to come over and take our country, that we wanted to protect it," Carter said.

Carter always had a fascination with how things worked and got his request to go to radio school.
He told us, "they did send me to radio school at the University of Colorado and that was the best duty I had."

But soon he was off to the exotic New Hebrides Islands where like many others he waited and waited for his ship to come in.  When the LST 487 arrived he knew he had a big job ahead of him, and not just scraping off the barnacles. "Every man on there, officers and all, helped scrape the bottom of the ship," he told us.

LST stands for landing ship tank. The LST 487's job was to carry everything from tanks to food to ammunition in the U.S. campaign to invade Japanese controlled islands inching closer and closer to the Japanese mainland.  And the 487 was one of the biggest of its kind in the fleet, close to one football field in length.

Carter remembers well the morning before the fleet of nearly 100 ships invaded the Philippines.
"They gave all the troops, and we had a lot of them, they gave all of them a real good breakfast," Carter said.

It was all to fuel their bodies and spirits for battle and when the fleet finally did invade danger was all around them.  Radio Man Second Class Carter stayed busy in the radio room receiving messages, commands for what to do next.  Crews from the 487 carried supplies to the other ships for several days until the Marines who stormed the beach pushed inland to secure the island. 

His next major battle was Okinawa.  He said "the Japanese knew that Okinawa was the last step until they hit their homeland so they were putting everything they had into it."

The island was shrouded in smoke and most of what he remembers from the deck of the 487 are the sounds of battle.  More than 12,000 Americans died.

After the devastating battle the LST 487 was taken in for repairs. Carter got to go home temporarily and in that time in September 1945 news came that the war had ended but his job wasn't over. The lst had several missions to transport Japanese refugees and U.S. Marines.

The LST 487 was docked in Tokyo Bay when one final message came into James Carter's radio room. "We were the happiest people that ever was. We were going to get to go home," he told us.

Two years of danger, service and sacrifice make James Carter an East Texas Hero.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment