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The Otto Carter Story
by Travis Monday, excerpt from Wings, W.A.S.P. and Warriors

Click For EnlargementWhen in 1999 Otto Carter, III, began searching the internet for a photo of a P-47 Thunderbolt, he didn’t know he would soon hit the jackpot.  He began the search at a computer shop so that he could show a friend the type of airplane that his father, Otto Carter, Jr., had flown during World War II.

After finding a web page listing some sites he had not seen before, Otto, III, clicked one from the Museum of Transport and Technology located in Auckland, New Zealand.  The computer screen revealed a photograph of a P-47 with the caption, “This plane was recovered from a swamp about 40 miles north of Port Moresby, New Guinea.”

Knowing that his father had flown P-47s in New Guinea, he immediately took a closer look.  When he saw the markings of his father’s squadron, he felt stunned.

In an interview with Nancy Robinson Masters, he said, “I knew I was looking at my dad’s old airplane.”

Otto, III’s father, Otto, Jr., had loaned a P-47 carrying the name “Sweetwater Swatter” to fellow pilot Wallace Harding while Harding’s plane underwent repairs.  When the oil pump failed during flight, causing the engine to seize, Harding made an emergency wheels-up landing in the Waigani Swamp.  It took Harding two days to make his way to safety.

Then, in 1970, a pharmacist from Port Moresby built a road into the wetlands planning to recover the airplane.  Because of an unrelated injury, he had to depend on some friends to recover it, and they had to cut it into pieces to get it out.  After 25 years with multiple owners, the “Sweetwater Swatter” ended up in Sydney, Australia, with Robert Greinert, who decided to restore it to flying condition.

When Otto, III, showed his father what he had found on the internet, Otto, Jr., shared the excitement of his son, and when he passed away in Eula, Texas, on May 2, 2001, he knew that the “Sweetwater Swatter” might one day fly again.

The story of Otto Carter, Jr., the pilot of the “Sweetwater Swatter,” goes far beyond the fate of one P-47, and includes many other airplanes, including a Wright B. Flyer that scooted across the skies of Texas in 1911.

The first landing of an airplane in Sweetwater, Texas, helped set the stage for the life and adventures of one of Nolan County’s best-known World War II heroes, William Otto Carter, Jr.  His father, William Otto Carter, Sr., witnessed that historic event on November 24, 1911 – about four years before the birth of Otto, Jr., in Sweetwater on October 30, 1916.

Charles A. Lindbergh, famous for his solo flight across in the Atlantic Ocean in “The Spirit of St. Louis” in 1927, did not see his first airplane until 1912, a year later than Otto, Sr., saw R. G. Fowler land in Sweetwater.

So this story is tied to three William Otto Carters – Otto Carter, Sr.; Otto Carter, Jr.; and Otto Carter, III.  Otto Carter, Jr. serves as the focus of this story.  As his father, Otto, Sr. provided parental guidance mixed with stories of early aviation.  And as his son, Otto, III, with the
help of his mother Lillian, has worked diligently to keep his father’s story alive.  It’s a story worth telling.

Otto, Jr. grew up hearing his father tell the story of R. G. Fowler’s landing in a Wright B. Flyer on a field behind the home of Thomas Trammell.  Otto, Sr. would have mentioned the sheet laid out on the field as a marker for Fowler.  And when Fowler took off from that same field later that day, the memory of his visit remained with Otto, Sr., to inspire an interest in aviation that he passed along to his son, who would one day fly with Lindbergh in the Southwest Pacific.

The first William Otto Carter entered the world near Alexandria, Louisiana, on September 26, 1883.  After his parents, David Daniel Carter and Hattie Drusilla (Dawson) Carter moved to Abilene, Texas, young Otto attended school there.  He married Leona Uvalde Collins in Sweetwater, on July 27, 1906.

At the time of his marriage to Hattie, Otto, Sr. worked as a partner in the West Texas Hardware Company in Merkel, Texas, where the young couple resided until they moved to Sweetwater in 1910 – the year before Fowler landed the first airplane in Sweetwater.

After moving to Sweetwater, Otto, Sr. started and operated Carter’s Plumbing Company and ran the business for forty years.  He had the distinction of becoming one of the first master plumbers in Texas.

So Otto Carter, Jr., grew up as the son of a plumber, and his father’s occupation influenced his ability to work with his hands.  That ability would later prove helpful in the jungles of New Guinea.

Otto, III, in looking back on his father’s life, recognized the connection between his grandfather’s occupation and his father’s mechanical ability.  Plumbers work with their hands, and that ability can contribute to other mechanical skills.  “He was a plumber,” says Otto, III.  “When Dad wanted a car, he said, ‘Here’s this junker.  You put it together and it’s yours.’  Dad learned mechanics that way.”

By the time Otto, Jr. graduated from high school in Sweetwater in 1934, he had developed a love of music and had played in the high school band.  He continued his band activities while attending Texas A&M. After he transferred to John Tarleton College in Stephenville, Texas, he played the trumpet in the school orchestra.  His musical background would later affect his military training experience.

After college Carter worked for International Harverst Company in Sweetwater and in Abilene.

On September 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland, an act that marked the beginning of World War II.  Although the United States had not yet entered the war, Carter expected his nation to get drawn into the conflict.

“In 1939,” Carter later recalled, “Hitler started having this big deal about taking all of Europe, and I knew that war was going to break out sooner or later, and I knew that I was at the right age to be involved in this thing.”

Carter didn’t want to serve in the infantry and liked the idea of flying, so he enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training Course.  “I decided to take flying lessons to see if I would be able to fly,” he explained.

In order to get into Civilian Pilot Training (CPT), Carter first had to have his qualifications verified at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene.  He later explained, “All the cadets, or people who wanted to become cadets, they checked out at Hardin-Simmons.”

Carter made it into CPT.  Regarding his civilian flight instructor he said, “He was a former military pilot and was very demanding and tough.  I liked him.”

This “demanding and tough” instructor was none other than West Texas pioneer aviator L. E. Derryberry, a man who had trained with Charles Lindbergh at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas.  Derryberry and Abilene dentist Dr. M. T. Ramsey had unsuccessfully sought financial backing in Abilene for Lindbergh’s trip across the Atlantic.  When Lindbergh visited Abilene in 1927, shortly after his famous transatlantic flight, Derryberry served as his driver, transporting  Lindbergh from Kinsolving Field to downtown Abilene.

Derryberry, the same man who trained with Lindbergh, taught Carter to fly in a Piper J3 Cub.  He let Carter solo after 8 hours of instruction.  Carter had pleasant memories of his first solo flight.  “I enjoyed it very much and I really had a good time doing it,” he recalled.

After completing a total of 40 hours of instruction, Carter took and passed his flight exam and succeeded in getting his private license.  Knowing that he had the aptitude for flying, he joined the Army Air Corps.

Carter entered military life at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, and soon encountered the confusion that sometimes characterizes military organizations.  After letting him spend the first few days in a tent city,

the Army moved him to a second tent city, and then the Army lost track of him.  As Carter later explained:
They finally decided that we were the lost squadron, because for some reason or another they got mixed up on all the paperwork
in the office down there.  And they decided to hold us there down in a tent city for the next class, which means that I should have been in the class of 42-H.  But instead we were all assigned to the class of 42-I.

After getting assigned to Class 42-I, Carter spend several weeks in-processing and doing preflight schoolwork.

From Kelly Field the Army sent Carter to Parks Air College in East St. Louis, Illinois, for primary flight training.  There he learned to fly the Fairchild PT-19 Cornell from an instructor named Ribicoff, whom Carter described as “a real nice guy and an excellent pilot.”

Ribicoff introduced Carter to a field east of St. Louis by flying over it at an altitude of about 100 feet upside down.  Carter later recalled, “The other fellows, of course, went through the same thing, but they didn’t get to fly upside down like I did.”

At Parks Air College Carter got into some mischief that earned him the nickname, “Hedge-hopper.”  While flying over a field one day he spotted a farmer driving a tractor and decided to “excite him a little bit.”  Carter explained his actions as follows:

I went down on him, and I got pretty close but not dangerously close.  It was close enough that he jumped off the tractor – well he stopped it and jumped off and got underneath it . . . .  He got back on it as I pulled up and started circling around.  And I thought, “Well, I believe I’ll do that again.”  And I buzzed him again and he jumped off of it again and got back down under the tractor.  And then I thought, “Hey, I’d better get out of here or somebody will report me.”

Unfortunately for Carter, a flight instructor had witnessed his performance and flew over to him and signaled him back to the base.  He got off light, receiving only a strong verbal rebuke, but he did more low-flying later without getting caught.

As with his civilian flight training, military primary flight training required 8 hours in the plane before a cadet could solo.  Since Carter already had 165 hours as a civilian pilot, Ribicoff cheated a little by letting him solo before the required 8 hours.  Carter soloed for the first time as a military pilot on March 15, 1952.  He completed his training at Parks Air College with 65 hours of military flight time.

From Parks Air College the Army sent Carter to Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas, for basic flight training.

“I believe the roughest time I’ve ever had in my life was at Randolph Field,” said Carter.  He also said something similar in a letter printed in a Round Robin newsletter dated June 16, 1942, “I have found out that

flying is not always fun, and it also gets to be work.  One can’t imagine how much precision, perseverance and perspiration is required in handling airplane.”

In the same letter Carter expressed uncertainty about completing basic flight training.  He wrote, “If I don’t wash I’ll soon be ready for night flying and night cross country.”  He also mentioned instrument training in the LINK Trainer, adding that “they aren’t exactly easy either.”

Although LINK training proved difficult to Carter, his flight instructors caused him even more grief.  He said of his first instructor at Randolph:
I had I believe the meanest instructor that was ever born as my basic flight instructor.  Each instructor there had 8 cadets, and my instructor had washed out 8 cadets before he got into my 8.  And he washed out 6 of my group and just left me and another fellow in his flight.  And it seemed like he was determined to wash us out.  But I was determined that I was gonna stay regardless.

The problems with Carter’s instructor worsened.  Finally, in desperation, he went to his commander and asked for a new instructor.  His commander gave him a different instructor whom Carter described as “twice as bad as the fellow I had.”

His new instructor, Lt. McDonald, criticized everything Carter did.  And he went far beyond mere criticism by repeatedly making Carter run around a hangar wearing his parachute.  “And I’m telling you,” Carter said, “that ol’ parachute was really heavy!”

A few years later Carter would have a totally different feeling about parachutes.

Before graduation, Carter trained in North American BT-14s with 450 Pratt and Whitney engines.  He liked them except for their brakes, about which he complained, “We have two ships messed up just because the brakes grab.  You really have to be careful with them.”

In spite of the LINK Trainer, bad brakes, and mean flight instructors, Carter finally completed basic flight training.  Lt. McDonald surprised him at his graduation party by saying, “Carter, you’re a good pilot, but I didn’t want you to get shot down over there.”  He then explained that he had made the training difficult so that Carter wouldn’t mess up in combat.

After basic flight training, the Army sent Carter to Foster Field in Victoria, Texas, for advanced flight training in the North American AT-6 Texan, about which he said, “After I flew it for a little while I thought it was the finest airplane made.  It was a real joy to fly.”

Soon after Carter’s arrival at Foster Field, someone asked if any of the cadets knew how to play a trumpet or a coronet.  He raised his hand
and the inquirer said, “We need a bugler, and you’re it.  The bugle is over in the office.”

As the bugler Carter had to get up at 5:30 every morning, get dressed, run to the flagpole, and then blow his bugle.  He enjoyed waking up his fellow cadets.  “I got a kick out of just blowing real loud to wake up these guys,” he explained, “because they didn’t like it anyway.”

Later, at graduation, the other aspiring pilots grabbed Carter to remove his pants and fly them from the flagpole, but he put up such a fight that they abandoned the idea.

Upperclassmen also gave Carter a hard time, but six of them messed up one night by landing their AT-6s without first lowering their landing gear.  “They forgot to put their wheels down,” he said, “and they crash landed.”  He further explained, “Six damaged AT-6s on the landing strip, and boy they really caught it about that!”

On October 9, 1942, Carter received his wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U. S. Army Air Corps.  His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carter, and his sister, Velma, traveled from Sweetwater to Foster Field for the ceremony.

Before his departure from Foster Field, Carter had a chance to indicate what kind of pilot job he wanted.  He said he wanted to fly fighter planes.  His instructor, thinking Carter would make a good fighter pilot, recommended him for that job, and he got it.  After graduation, the Army sent him to Connecticut to train as a fighter pilot.

Carter would soon find himself flying with a group of men destined to make history, the 348th Fighter Group of the 5th Army Air Force.

According to John Stanaway, author of Kearby’s Thunderbolts:
               On paper, the 348th Fighter Group began life at Mitchell
Field, New York, in September 1942.  It was born and transferred the same day, September 30, 1942, to Bradley Field at Windsor Locks in Connecticut.  On October 29th, the group moved once again, this time to Westover Field, Massachusetts, where it received the first of its Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft.

Carter arrived in Connecticut in time to witness the early development of the 348th Fighter Group.  After a brief stay at Bradley Field, he relocated to Westover Field.  The Army assigned him to the 340th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Minutemen.  Their unit patch displayed a caricature of a man wearing a pilot’s helmet and scarf and firing a machinegun while riding a bolt of lightning.

Before he could fly a P-47 Thunderbolt, Carter had to spend 10 hours in the cockpit mastering all of the instruments and controls.  Two famous fighter pilots led him through this process:  Colonel David C. Schilling and Colonel Hubert “Hub” Zemke.  Schilling later won fame as a P-47 fighter pilot in the European Theater by scoring 22.5 victories.  And Zemke became a legendary fighter ace as the leader of the famed 56th Fighter Group known as “Zemke’s Wolfpack.”

“Those two fellows checked me out in the P-47.  And that gave me permission to take off after I had passed a blindfold test in the cockpit,” said Carter.

When he made his first flight in a P-47, Carter marveled at the difference from all the other aircraft he had flown, such as the PT-19 and the AT-6.  The power far surpassed them and the ride felt different too.  “Everything was so smooth,” he said, “the airplane was just like silk – just as smooth as it could be.”

Soon after moving to Westover Field, Carter met the commander of the 348th Fighter Group, Colonel Neel Kearby of Dallas, Texas – originally from Wichita Falls, Texas.  Carter described Kearby as “one of the finest fellows who ever lived.”  Kearby would lead the way in gaining acceptance for the P-47 in the Pacific and would become one of America’s best fighter pilots.

The day after he met Kearby, Carter learned that the 348th Fighter Group would train for high altitude aerial combat in Europe.  “I never had been over 20,000 feet in an AT-6 but found out that the P-47 would go up to 40,000 feet,” he said.

Training at Westover Field meant more than learning to fly at higher altitudes.  Weather conditions often made flying dangerous.  Deep snow had to be plowed, resulting in walls of ice and snow on both sides of the runway.  Using the runway under those conditions “was like taking off in a ditch,” said Carter.  And since some of the ice and snow remained on the runway, landing required special care.  Landing at 120 to 125 mph with ice on the runway made braking difficult.  Carter recalled tapping his brakes and said, “It was a good thing we had a 10,000 foot runway.”

Winter weather sometimes produced poor visibility, and apparently caused the death of Carter’s friend and former roommate, Charles G. Hay, who crashed his P-47 on December 1, 1942.  Carter gave the following account of that event:

Charles was up on a practice mission there at Westover, and they got into a big snowstorm.  He lost his horizon.  He wasn’t
very familiar with instrument flying anyway, and he spun in and was killed.  I hated to hear that.
My squadron commander asked me to escort his body to Detroit, Michigan, for burial there – a military funeral, which, of course, I was glad to do.  I had to escort the body on the train.  And we went to Detroit, and we had the funeral, and I got back on the train and went back to my outfit.

A less serious incident occurred one day while Carter was pulling a tow target.  He and his fellow pilots would take turns with this duty so they could develop good marksmanship for aerial combat.  Each pilot had his own color so that he could determine the accuracy of his fire.

After taking his turn at pulling the tow target, Carter set his course to return to Westover Field, only to have his target cable break.  The target fell toward a residential section of Providence, Rhode Island.  Since the target included a heavy iron bar about 10 feet long, Carter could imagine it hitting somebody’s house, going through the roof, and killing two or three people.  Much to his relief, after he landed he learned that the target had fallen into a vacant lot without causing any injuries.

Carter’s training in the P-47 also included some time at Green Field in Rhode Island.

With their P-47 training completed, the men of the 348th Fighter Group made final preparations for overseas duty.  Since they expected to join the war effort in Europe, the Army issued them heavy winter clothing.

As the time for departure neared, Carter and his fellow pilots boarded a train.  With the blinds closed for secrecy, they took a long train ride designed to confuse enemy spies.  “And we rode and we rode and we rode,” he explained.  “Then we had to load on some trucks and go to the wharf.”

After boarding the Army transport ship Henry Gibbons, the men went their assigned staterooms.  Carter remembered sharing space with Charlie Allen, Myron Nashow, Bill Chase, and Lynn Parsons.

On May 15, 1943, the Henry Gibbons left the wharf at Weehawken, New Jersey.  Carter gave the following account of that departure:
Some time during the night, the ship started to leave the harbor.  And when we felt it moving, we went outside on deck to look around, and saw the Statue of Liberty.  And we all waved good-bye to the Statue of Liberty.  And then we headed out to sea.

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The Otto Carter Story -- Part 2
When Otto Carter and his fellow P-47 Thunderbolt pilots left the United States aboard the Army transport Henry Gibbons, they expected to cross the Atlantic Ocean and enter the European Theater of the war.  There they would engage their German Luftwaffe opponents in the kind of high altitude aerial combat for which the P-47 had been designed.

But the men of the 348th Fighter Group soon learned otherwise.  Two or three days into their voyage, they heard an announcement over the ship’s speaker system that informed them of a change in plans.  Instead of going to Europe, they would pass through the Panama Canal and then cross the Pacific Ocean to Australia.

Adding to the surprise of this announcement was the command for the men of the 348th to get rid of their brand new winter clothing.  Carter resisted the thought of such waste.  “I just couldn’t believe it because each one of us had hundreds of dollars worth of real good flying equipment,” he complained.  Then he added, “But that was the orders and that’s what we had to do, and that’s what we did.”

As the Henry Gibbons entered the waters in the area of Cuba, airplanes and destroyers provided protection.  Carter remembered watching a destroyer drop depth charges one afternoon and believed that it sank a German sub.  He also recalled:
That was known as “Torpedo Alley” there around Puerto Rico and Cuba and all in there because of ships getting destroyed all the time.  There was a ship sunk the day before we went there, and then we found out later that there was a ship sunk the day after we went through there.

On May 21, 1943, Carter’s group passed through the Panama Canal, and then the crew of the Henry Gibbons adjusted their course for Australia.

Carter saw Australia for the first time on June 14th, and remembered that Brisbane sat a few miles inland rather than right on the coast as he had expected.  The Henry Gibbons traveled up a river for a few miles before arriving in Brisbane, where they unloaded.

Soon after their arrival, the personnel of the 348th Fighter Group set up residence at Archer Field and waited for their airplanes to arrive.  After they received their P-47s, they slow-timed the engines in preparation for a trip to New Guinea, which would become their first area of operation.

During his service in the Southwest Pacific, Carter flew four P-47s, but he used only two names for all of them.  He named his first two Thunderbolts, “Carter’s Little Pill,” and his other two, “Sweetwater Swatter.”

Back home in Sweetwater, Carter would have known about Swatter Field, where the Sweetwater Swatters played baseball.  He also would have known about Lew Jenkins, who became the Lightweight Boxing Champion of the World shortly before the beginning of World War II.  Jenkins, who eventually made it into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, had many nicknames, including “The Sweetwater Swatter” and “The Sweet Swatter from Sweetwater.”

The name “Sweetwater” on Carter’s airplanes included a picture of a fly swatter slapping the face of a Japanese pilot or soldier.

Like his leader, Colonel Neel Kearby, Carter loved the P-47 Thunderbolt.  Many years after his service as a fighter pilot he would say, “The P-47 was the very, very best.”  But he also held great respect for the Japanese Zero.  In a letter dated September 19, 1943, he wrote,
You can’t conceive of the maneuverability of the Zero.  It is truly a wonderful ship for what it is designed.  We have learned
a whole lot from them, and again I think we have taught them a lesson or two.

In the same letter Carter further commented on the P-47, saying, “My ship is new in this theater as you know, but I am sure we can hold our own.  We have so far.”

Although P-47s gained a reputation for toughness, Carter had to make a couple of emergency landings due to mechanical failures.  His first forced landing occurred while his unit worked out of Port Moresby.

While conducting an orientation flight for a pilot who had just arrived on the scene, Carter lost oil pressure in his engine.  Knowing he could not make the return trip to Port Moresby, he sent the new pilot back there while he began searching for a place to land.  The jungles of New Guinea provided few good landing areas and claimed the lives of numerous pilots, but Carter spotted a clearing where other airplanes had crashed during forced landings.

Instead of bailing out or ditching in the ocean, Carter chose to take his chances with the little clearing.  He said, “The only thing I could do was try to glide in and set down at the right spot so I wouldn’t run into the jungle.”

Carter’s engine had not locked down because he had pulled back on the throttle as soon as he noticed the loss of oil pressure, so he glided in with the engine idling.  “The Lord was with me,” he recalled, “because I happened to get down and had enough space to stop the airplane . . . the dirt was so soft that it just slowed me up right quick.”

After landing Carter kept the engine running just long enough to position the airplane for a takeoff, and then he shut it down.  He climbed out of the cockpit and began to look around.

Carter saw a wrecked B-25 Mitchell bomber and a wrecked P-47.  A friend of his had died in the crash of the P-47, and “his body was still in the airplane,” said Carter.  “He and I had double-dated some back up in Westover.  He just got hit by a Zero and that finished him off.”

While still looking around, Carter saw a New Guinea native who also saw him, so he waved at the native and smiled.  The native then signaled Carter to come to him, and Carter accepted the invitation.

When I got over there, I could see his wife back under the trees where they had a little thatched-roof shack.  She was standing there stirring a pot, and she had a baby . . . on her hip, and she was stirring some kind of stuff.  The man made a motion that I could have some of this.  Well, that didn’t appeal to me because I didn’t know whether he had rats or snakes or whatever in that, so I told him, “No thanks.”

Carter then waved and smiled at the native again and returned to his airplane to see if he could figure out why he had lost oil pressure.  He thought to himself, “I gotta find out what the trouble is.”  His exposure to plumbing through his father’s plumbing business was about to pay off in a big way.

After he removed part of the cowling off of the engine, Carter immediately spotted a hose that had ruptured, and thought, “Well, that shouldn’t be too hard to fix.”

Next, Carter walked over to the wrecked B-25 and looked over one of its engines, and he found a hose that resembled the one on his P-47.  “So I eased it off and took it over to mine and took off the hose that had split,” he said, “and sure enough, by trimming it a little bit, it fit on this engine just like it was made for it.”

Even with the hose repaired, Carter still needed oil, so he looked around until he found a little bucket in the fuselage of the B-25.  He used it to carry oil from the B-25 to his P-47.  After making about 10 trips back and forth, he felt he might have enough oil to get the plane back to Port Moresby.

When he started the engine, Carter’s oil gauge told him that he had oil pressure again, and he thought, “I’m getting out of here.”

The soft ground that had helped him slow down quickly upon landing now threatened to interfere with his takeoff, so Carter put on the brakes and pushed the throttle forward until he had all the power he could get.
I released the brakes suddenly and the plane kind of jumped and I started down this dirt so-called runway, and the trees and jungle were getting close.  I stayed on the ground as long as I could, then I pulled back on the stick and that airplane took off.  And I flew through some trees, limbs, and leaves and all that ‘til I got up above them.  I kind of made a hole in the jungle there by flying this airplane out of there.

Soon after making a safe landing on Jackson Strip at Port Moresby, a mechanic told Carter that a filter had been covered up with metal chips from the engine and said to him, “Carter, that plane wouldn’t have flown another five miles.  You’re a lucky boy.”

Carter’s first mission with the 340th Fighter Squadron took him over the Markham Valley and Lae, where he heard a lot of chatter on his radio from P-38s, P-39s, and P-40s engaged in combat.  Although they heard the sounds of combat, they did not experience it for themselves on that first mission.  In keeping with their stateside training, they flew at an altitude that kept them above the fray.

After returning to the base, Col. Kearby called the men together and said, “We came over her to fight a war, and we’re going down where
the war is.”  From that day on the men used the P-47’s high altitude capability primarily to gain speed for diving down on the enemy.

During Carter’s time at Port Moresby, General Douglas MacArthur moved his headquarters there from Brisbane, Australia, and Carter saw him frequently.  “You would know his vehicle,” he explained, “because it would have some flags on it and a lot of G.I.s around it for protection.”

In preparation for dropping paratroopers into the Markham Valley, MacArthur decided to scout the area from his own B-17 Flying Fortress.  “And, of course, he needed a fighter escort,” said Carter, “and I was one of four fighters that escorted him.”  On the day of the assault by the paratroopers, he again provided fighter cover for MacArthur.

The campaign for New Britain provided Carter with an unexpected sight-seeing opportunity – an active volcano.  “We would fly out and check out that volcano real good and fly over it or close to it.”

At times the fighter pilots of the 348th Fighter Group strafed and bombed enemy targets on the ground and provided support for ground troops, and the P-47 proved itself well-suited for such missions.  When Allied troops invaded New Britain, they covered the assault.

And while protecting the ground troops they also had to protect themselves.  As Carter explained:
The Japs had a lot of ack, ack positions on the shore of New Britain to protect them and to shoot down any planes that they could.  We found out where they were and we would sneak up on ‘em and we’d try to get to an area where they wouldn’t expect us.  And we just tore ‘em up!

Like many other American military personnel, Carter made himself a “short snorter.”  He had people sign currency for him, and that was how short snorters were made.  His short snorter, still in the possession of his family, contains the signatures of some well-known people, including America’s number one fighter ace in the Pacific, Richard Bong.  It also contains the signature of the famous test pilot, Chuck Yeager.  But the signature in which Carter took the most pride was that of Charles A. Lindbergh.

Even though the P-47, with the help of Kearby and his pilots, proved itself in combat against both air and surface targets, its limited range caused it considerable criticism.  During his visit to the Pacific Theater of the war, Lindbergh helped resolve that problem.

Before his visit, Lindbergh made numerous test flights in P-47s, and on one occasion he almost lost his life during a high altitude flight.  By the time he arrived in the Pacific, he knew how to get a lot more mileage out of them.

In spite of some of Lindbergh’s controversial views before the war, after the United States got involved, he wanted to do his part, and Carter admired him both as a pilot and a patriot.  Lindbergh actually flew over 50 missions as a civilian “advisor,” and during a mission with the 475th Fighter Group, he shot down a Japanese airplane while piloting a Lockheed P-38 Lightning.

When Lindbergh met with the men of the 348th Fighter Group, they received him warmly and eagerly listened to his suggestions for extending the range of their P-47s.  He also mixed and mingled with the men.

In his journal entry for August 17, 1944, Lindbergh wrote, “Fort-minute talk on fuel economy and combat radius with each of the squadrons of the 348th Fighter Group.  Finished at 1330.”

Although Lindbergh worked hard to produce a detailed and accurate journal, he could not possibly mention everyone he met by name or even every activity in which he participated.  During that trip, he stayed busy most of the time and even worked on his book, The Spirit of St. Louis.  His failure to mention Carter by name is of little consequence.

In the time Lindbergh spent with the men of the 348th Fighter Group, he made a strong impression on Carter.  Years later, during an interview by his son, Otto, III, he said, “I was talking with him (Lindbergh) just like I’m talking to you right now, sitting down on my cot in my tent.”  Carter also said, “This guy was a genius, and you felt that just being around him.  He wasn’t a guy who happened to get lucky in time with a plane or something.  He was truly remarkable.  It wasn’t any accident that he was a great aviator.”

During an interview with Nancy Robinson in 1984, Carter mentioned one of Lindbergh’s comments to him during their encounter in the Southwest Pacific.  He remembered Lindbergh saying, “Carter, I’d give anything in the world to be doing what you’re doing.”   In the same interview he also recalled making a fighter sweep with Lindbergh as his wingman.  He said, “I’ll never forget how it felt to be flying in formation with him.”

In a brief unpublished autobiographical article, Carter wrote, “To me he (Lindbergh) was a real hero!  From then on our gas consumption was unbelievable.”

After Charles Lindbergh’s visit, Carter taught other pilots what Lindbergh taught him.  James Curran, who served with the 341st Fighter Squadron and later with Carter in the 460th Fighter Squadron, said, “I did not get to meet Lindbergh personally, but I remember Otto describing the fuel conservation system Lindy recommended for the P-47 aircraft.  I used that system to great advantage.”

Earlier, before Lindbergh’s visit, Carter face another emergency landing when he lost a wheel during takeoff from a runway at Nadzab, where he had landed to refuel before returning to Port Moresby.

After discussing his situation with tower personnel at Nadzab, Carter told them he would fly back to Port Moresby and deal with the problem there.

Arriving at Port Moresby, Carter asked to talk with his squadron commander, Major Hervey B. Carpenter.  After discussing his options with Carpenter, he decided to make a wheels-up landing, but first he needed to burn up more of his fuel to reduce the likelihood of a bad fire.  He had already dropped his belly tank and had fired up all of his ammunition.

While working out his plan with Carpenter, Carter noticed jeeps and trucks and people coming out of the jungles and gathering around the airstrip below.  He thought, “My goodness, what’s going on?”  “Well,” he explained, “it turned out that they wanted to see this plane that was going to crash land.”

Since he had an audience and needed to burn up some more fuel, Carter decided to put on a show.  “I came down and buzzed the strip doing about 450 miles an hour,” he said, “and pulled up and then came back around and did some loops.”

When the time came to land with his landing gear up, he moved over to the side of the runway to avoid the steel matting laid down by the engineers.  “I was going to stay off of that steel – I didn’t want the sparks.”

Carter described his landing as follows:
I believe it was the best landing I ever made in my life.  I came down and everything worked just perfectly.  I hit the ground real easy; it was a real soft landing.  And the thing scooted and scooted and scooted because I landed probably at about 120 miles an hour.  And that thing just kept going and going.  I didn’t think it was gonna ever quit.  But finally it started slowing up.  And then, right at the very last, it rocked up a little bit on its nose, and then flopped back down

As soon as his P-47 stopped, Carter made a quick exit.  When an ambulance reached him shortly thereafter, the driver asked if he needed medical assistance.  Carter replied, “No.  I just want a ride.”

In spite of his two forced landings due to mechanical failtures, Carter preferred the P-47 over any other aircraft.  Flying the Thunderbolt enabled him to make significant contributions to the war effort as he served with the Minutemen of the 340th Fighter Squadron.  But he flew his way into the history by helping give birth to a new squadron of the 348th Fighter Group – the 460th Fighter Squadron.

Stanaway, in his book, Kearby’s Thunderbolts, gives the following explanation of the formation of the 460th Fighter Squadron:
In July (1944) the 348th became the only Group in the Southwest Pacific with four operational squadrons when the 460th Fighter Squadron arrived from the States with an untested cadre of pilots and ground crews.  Bill Dunham was selected to command the “Black Rams”, as the 460th became known.  Dunham brought Captains George Orr and Bob Sutcliffe and Lieutenants Willis Cooley, Frank Russo and DeWitt Searles from the 342nd.  Bill Carter, Wallace Harding and Richard Foster came from the 340th while the 341st sent Charles Cronk, George Della, Frank Morrison and James Curran.

The “Bill Carter” mentioned by Stanaway was William (“Bill”) Otto Carter, Jr. of Sweetwater, Texas.

One P-47 pilot who remembered Carter and the formation of the 460th was John J. Smith, who said, “On the 27th of July, 1st Lt. William O. Carter was assigned from the 340th Fighter Squadron of the 348th Fighter Group as a flight leader.”

Carter later remembered, “I was asked to help organize the 460th under Col. Bill Dunham.”

Dunham, nicknamed “Dingy,” ranked among the top aces of the Southwest Pacific, and Carter counted him among his good friends.  They would fly into some heavy combat together.

But before the 460th could enter the fighting, they needed to get ready.  “We went to Nadzab, in the Markham Valley, and started receiving pilots for the 460th,” said Carter.  “After lots of training with the new pilots, we moved to Noemfoor and did more training.”

Smith indicated that he first encountered Carter at Nadzab, and he soon developed great respect for him and the other leaders of the Black Rams.  As he later recalled:
As of the 28th of August, 1944, 24 new pilots from the pool at Port Moresby, New Guinea, had been chosen and assigned to the new 460th Fighter Squadron.  Fortunately, I, John J. Smith, a
flight officer at the time, was one of those.  We started training missions with the cadre of pilots from other squadrons who . . . had the purpose of teaching us the ropes of flying combat.  And they did a wonderful job.

Although Carter started out as a flight leader for the 460th, before he returned to the States he would serve briefly as squadron commander.  According to Smith, “On December 18th, 1944, Capt. Wm. O. Carter assumed command of the 460th Fighter Squadron when Major Dunham was relieved preparatory to his return to the States.”

According to Stanaway, “By September 1, 1944 the 460th was in training in the back water of the war and was becoming combat ready.”  Before long the pilots of the new 460th Fighter Squadron joined the other squadrons of the 348th Fighter Group in flying escort, patrol, reconnaissance, strafing, and ground support missions.  Before the month ended, Bill Dunham received his promotion to Major.

In October the battle for the Philippines escalated.  On October 20th forces under the command of General MacArthur landed on Leyte Island in the southern Philippines, followed shortly thereafter by the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 24-27th.

During that battle Carter received instructions to move to an airstrip in the Philippines.  “We were told that fighters had been caught on the ground at Tacloban and that we had two hours to be airborne.  Boy!  Did we get in a hurry!”

The pilots received instructions to leave their tents and everything in them with the assurance that their gear would be shipped to them later.

“We took off in less than two hours on our way to Morotai, with 35 planes,” said Carter.  “We arrived in Morotai with 34, and I don’t know what happened to the pilot and plane of the one that was missing.”

The 460th Fighter Squadron arrived in the Philippines three weeks ahead of the rest of the 348th Fighter Group.  After a weather delay of several days, they went to work escorting a squad of B-25 Mitchell bombers to Leyte.

“Everything was fine until we got there,” remembered Carter.  “A Japanese convoy had just arrived, and believe me, it all hit the fan!”

In the action that followed, some of the B-25s were lost, but as Carter recalled, “The Jap convoy was really smashed!  Then we landed at Tacloban.  What a mission!”

Smith, who flew with Carter on that same mission, remembered the loss of 2nd Lt. Andrew McClendon “to friendly fire.”

During the next three weeks, the pilots of the 460th shot down lots of enemy planes and sank 50,000 tons of enemy shipping.  On one mission they destroyed a convoy loaded with an estimated 10,000 enemy troops on its way to reinforce the Japanese army on Leyte.

Since he had helped form the 460th Fighter Squadron and had helped train many of its pilots, Carter took special pride in their accomplishments, saying, “The 460th really did an outstanding job!  Those young pilots received many commendations and awards.”

Carter received his promotion to captain during November of 1944 while the action was hot and heavy.  Then, on November 29th, he participated in an attack on a Japanese convoy that would earn him a medal.

Toward the end of his time as commander of the 460th, Major Dunham led a mission against a Japanese convoy that had arrived the night before in Ormoc Bay on the west side of Leyte.  After reaching the port city of Ormoc, they had begun unloading their cargo.

The Japanese had labeled this convoy TA No. 6.  According to Japanese Naval historian Allyn D. Nevitt, “TA was the designation assigned to Japanese naval operations aimed at getting reinforcements, supplies and munitions to their troops fighting the U.S. invasion forces on Leyte, in the Philippines.”

TA No. 6 consisted of cargo carriers Shinsho Maru and Shinetsu Maru, Subchasers Nos. 45 and 53, and Patrol Boast No. 105.  Around midnight on November 28th, after the convoy had arrived in Ormoc Bay, American PT boats engaged the escorts in battle and used torpedoes to sink the Japanese patrol boat and Subchaser No. 53.  The next morning the surviving ships of TA No. 6 encountered a flight of 16 P-47 Thunderbolts led by Dunham with Carter and Captain Lynn Parsons as flight leaders.

Conflicting accounts make it impossible to discern with any certainty some of the details of the battle that ensued.  It appears to have been a “running battle” with the Japanese ships heading away from Ormoc Bay into the waters between Leyte and Cebu.  Some of the battle, according to Dunham, occurred near Duljugan Point on the western coast of Leyte, but it may have continued as far north as the Island of Masbate.

Whatever the exact locations of the battle, one thing is certain – the Japanese eventually lost every ship in the convoy and Lt. Tommy Sheets shot down a Japanese fighter plane – either a Zero or an Oscar.  The last ship sunk, the Shinetsu Maru, may not have been sunk until the following day.

After spotting the convoy on the 29th, Dunham led an attack on the Japanese cargo ship Shinsho Maru.  Although the ship didn’t actually sink, the Japanese had to beach it in flames probably somewhere on the western coast of Leyte.

Carter then led an attack on Subchader No. 45 with the assistance of his wingman.  When Carter picked his target, he thought he was about to attack a Japanese destroyer, and Dunham and the other pilots thought the same thing.  Years later Carter’s son, Otto, III, linked up with Allyn Nevitt, who researched the matter and established that Carter had actually attacked a Japanese subchaser.  Such misidentifications were common in World War II, and subchasers did have an appearance similar to Japanese destroyers.

Misidentification or not, Carter’s bold attack was the stuff of legends.  As he began diving down toward his target and building speed, he saw antiaircraft fire filling the air and used his radio to say, “Fellows, look out for that ack, ack.  I’m going after that destroyer.  He’s putting up too much of that stuff.”

Dunham reportedly replied, “Okay, Captain, watch yourself.”

Carter had at his disposal both bombs and 50 caliber machine guns.  At about 2,000 yards he pressed the trigger and the wing-mounted machine guns, mounted four on each wing, began spitting out fire and bullets.  As he fired at the ship, the Japanese gunners fired at him, so he began a high-speed zig-zagging motion as he zoomed toward his target.

When a Japanese plane approached Carter from behind, Sheets took out the enemy plane before it could stop Carter’s attack.

Carter’s son, Otto, III, who heard his father tell this story many times, picks up the narrative as follows:
And get this, he came in low and fast on the ship, which Dad said is the reason he survived.  He did everything as fast as he could; he didn’t goof around.  But he came in so low and fast that he was really a bit too low.  But he skip-bombed this bomb right into the waterline.  Before he knew it that ship was right in front of him and he had to kick his wing up to keep from hit-
ting the stack.  And he went between the stack and a boom of that ship.  And there were antennae wires all through there.
Sometimes when people would attack a ship they’d have a tendency to pull up to see what they did to their target.  Well, you got gunners on one side that are just waiting for you to slow down and do that.  So when Dad got the ship he kept doing his evasive maneuvers until he was out of range of the Japanese gunners.  Then he looked back and he said the ship had already broken in half and was about to sink.

Carter’s wingman, who made the attack with him, scored a hit on the stern of the subchaser.

After Carter returned to his base at Tacloban, Leyte, he discovered wires from the Japanese ship wrapped all over his guns.  The wire had cut into his wing and trailed behind the aircraft.

As a result of Carter’s successful action against the enemy ship, Dunham recommended him for the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The Otto Carter Story -- Part 3
Carter’s success in sinking Japanese Subchaser No. 45 demonstrated his courage under fire and his skill as a pilot, but he did something else that won for him the gratitude of another member of the Black Rams, Lt. Robert P. Smith of Sacramento, California.

After Smith’s P-47 got hit during an attack on a Japanese convoy, Smith bailed out and landed in the water.  Carter saw Smith and reported his plight and location to Air-Sea Rescue.  Shortly thereafter a Catalina Flying Boat, escorted by three P-38s and two P-47s, rescued Smith from the Ocean.  Carter had helped save the life of a fellow pilot.

Carter’s efforts to help other pilots characterized his pattern of leadership in the 460th Fighter Squadron.  As P-47 pilot John J. Smith recalled, “I flew many times on Otto’s wing and in his flight and am still around, which tells you that he protected his men to the best of his ability and really cared for them.”

On a few occasions Carter crossed paths with people he knew from Sweetwater.  He encountered Sergeant Lee Weatherby at Saidor, who worked in communications.  Weatherby helped him find Captain R. O. Peters, with whom Carter had several visits.  He also saw Captain Ovid Mullins in New Guinea.

But one man from Sweetwater failed to find Carter.  In a letter from Staff Sgt. Weldon (“Red”) Reynolds dated January 27, 1945, and posted in the Round Robin newsletter provided by the International Harvester Company in Sweetwater, Reynolds wrote:
I recognized a ship from Otto’s Squadron, so I consulted the pilot.  He was a new pilot, but spoke quite proudly of Lt. Carter, telling about his being C.O. for a while, then his going home.  Though I dislike the cause (sickness) of the departure of this swell guy and great pilot, I’m glad he’s back in the good ole U.S.A.

Indeed, Captain Otto Carter, Jr., departed from his overseas duty due to illness.  He later recalled, “I became sick with Dengue Fever, Malaria, Liver-fluke, Shisto and others that I can’t spell!”  He credited military doctor Major Charles Mayo, III, of the 118th General Hospital as “the one who pulled me through all this mess.”

Having recovered from most of his sickness, Carter returned to flight status, but not for long.  Another doctor, Dr. Stewart Ditmar, met him at his airplane’s revetment and said, “Carter, you are grounded as of right now.  You’re going home!”

Carter remembered saying to Dr. Ditmar, “Would you repeat that?”

In spite of the date of Reynold’s letter as cited above, Carter apparently didn’t actually arrive back in the United States until March 22, 1945, at which time he called his parents in Sweetwater from San Francisco and told them that he was on his way home.

Soon after his arrival in Sweetwater and after a joyous reunion with his family, he went to the city square to walk around and see who all was still around.  The next day he wrote, “Yesterday afternoon I decided to stroll around the square and see how many people I knew.  Being away as along as I have I found that I was pretty much of a stranger here.”

But Carter’s feelings of estrangement did not prevent him from speaking to a local service club about his military exploits.  While still on leave he spoke to the Sweetwater Rotary Club in the Skyroom of the Blue Bonnet Hotel.

Although Carter had flown 190 missions involving 500 operational hours, he had not suffered even a scratch.  He had earned 5 air medals
and had been recommended by Major Bill (“Dingy”) Dunham for the Distinguished Flying Cross.  On May 26, 1945, the Army approved Dunham’s recommendation, but it would take a long time for Carter to receive the award.

Meanwhile, Carter had other things on his mind.  He had told his good friend and fellow pilot, Lynn Parsons, that if his high school sweetheart, Lillian Pratt, had not married, he planned to look her up and marry her.

Pratt, now Mrs. Lillian Carter, met her future husband in the fall of 1932 while riding on a train that was taking the Sweetwater High School team and band to Amarillo, Texas, for a game.  The train also carried some fans from Sweetwater, and that included Lillian.

Carter, a junior who played both on the football team and in the band, conversed with Lillian during the 150-mile journey.

“We kind of hit it off,” said Carter.  “That’s the first time I really took notice of her.”

After graduating from Sweetwater High School, Carter and Lillian parted as friends during their college years.  They did not get back together until after Carter’s return from overseas duty.

At the time of Carter’s return, Lillian worked in the booking department of the Interstate Theaters in an office in the Majestic building in Dallas, Texas.

Because of all the news about the war that Lillian saw in the movie theaters, she thought about the dangers faced by her former boyfriend.  She told her parents that if Carter ever came home on leave, she wanted to see him alive again, but she “had no idea of marrying him.”

After learning of his return, Lillian took a train to Sweetwater to see him at a welcome-home party.  “So he came over to see me,” she said, “and that night he asked me to marry him.”

Lillian remembered Carter’s exact words of proposal:  “Do you want to be my girlfriend for a long, long time?”  Initially, she did not know what to say, but she eventually said yes.

Carter and Lillian married on April 17, 1945, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. H. P. Harkins in Sweetwater.  Nolan County historian Laura Sheridan provided the wedding music.

During their wedding trip, the newlyweds stopped off in Dallas where Felix McKnight presented Carter on Radio Station WFAA’s popular program “Fightin’ Texans.”  The program included a dramatic recreation of Carter’s sinking of a Japanese subchaser.  After the program he received a $100 war bond and the free use of a bridal suite in one of the leading hotels.

Even though Carter had survived the worst part of his illness while still serving in the Pacific, he still had to undergo further treatment, so he spent 30 days at the rehab center in Santa Monica.  During that time he and his new bride also honeymooned in the Shangra La Hotel.

After Carter’s rehab in California, the Army Air Force assigned him to Abilene Army Airfield, which had opened near Abilene on September 3, 1942.  He served at Abilene’s P-47 base as a test pilot and aerial combat instructor.  Regarding the condition of the P-47s at the base, he complained, “Believe me, these planes were worn out!”

One of those worn out P-47s almost cost Carter his life.  About two months after he and Lillian married, she became concerned when he didn’t show up for lunch.  “They called me at noon from the base and said that my husband just bailed out of his plane.”

Carter described his emergency jump as follows:
While airborne on the 22nd of June, 1945, the plane caught on fire at 8,000 feet, and I had to get out!  I had no control over the airplane and lost 5,000 feet trying to get out.  The last time I saw the air speed it was at 300 m.p.h.  I finally got out and landed in a plowed field with only a broken fingernail.  Praise the Lord!

Carter had landed in a field south of Merkel near a farmhouse.  Some people ran out of the house, and a short time later they invited him to eat chicken with them.

At the time of the incident, Carter had been teaching aerial combat techniques to Turkish pilots.

Carter’s P-47 crashed in a field near to the one in which he landed, and his family still possesses pieces of the wreckage.

By virtue of his successful emergency parachute jump, Carter became a member of the Caterpillar Club.  Charles Lindbergh, who still holds the record for successful emergency bail-outs, wrote in 1927 about parachutes and the Caterpillar Club in his book We:
They say in the service that any flyer who jumps to save his life becomes a member of the “Caterpillar Club.”  This is because the parachute is made entirely of silk, and silk comes from caterpillars.  All 57 members of this club feel that their lives have been saved by the silkworm caterpillar! 
   There is a saying in the services about the parachute:  “If you need it and haven’t got it, you’ll never need it again!”  That just about sums up its value to aviation.

At Randolph Field, Carter had complained that his flight instructor, Lt. McDonald had forced him to run around a hanger wearing a heavy parachute.  After a parachute saved his life, Carter had no further complaints about them.  “Switlik Parachute Company sent me a Caterpillar Pin,” he said, “which I wear with much thankfulness!”

During his days at Abilene Army Airfield, Carter considered a post-military career as an airline pilot, but another close call put an end to such aspirations.  About a week after his emergency bail-out, another worn-out P-47 nearly killed him.

“I had one quit on takeoff at about 100 feet in the air with a full load of rockets to go to the gunnery range,” said Carter.  Fortunately his engine came back to life and allowed him to make a safe landing, but he refused to fly that particular aircraft again.

Lillian didn’t want to lose her husband to an aviation accident.  “He thought about being an airline pilot,” she explained, “and I talked him out of it.”  She also talked him out of the military.  “My wife begged me to get out of the service,” said Carter.  “She couldn’t take anymore of these close calls.”

Carter officially left the Army Air Force on September 30, 1945.
After his discharge, Carter worked for International Harvestser Company in Abilene until his resignation on October 31, 1952.

Having maintained his love for music, Carter became a professional piano tuner, ran music stores, started the first VFW band in Abilene, and played with the Abilene Symphony Orchestra.  He also became a member of the first State VFW band under the direction of A. M. Armstrong.

Carter tuned instruments for many famous musicians, including:  Peter Nero, Steve Allen, Elvis Presley, Phillis Dillar, Ferrante & Teicher, Lawrence Welk, Herb Albert, Charlie Rich, Floyd Cramer, Kenny Rogers, Dianna Ross, Woody Herman, Boots Randolph, Eddie Rabbit, Oakridge Boys, Eddie Arnold, Fleetwood Mac, Reo Speedwagon, Styx, Chicago, Yes, Doobie Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Ray Stevens, Al Hirt, Victor Borga, and Ronnie Milsap.

Although he enjoyed meeting and knowing famous people, family meant more to Carter than anyone else.  He and Lillian raised three children:  Carol Ann, Suzanne, and William Otto, III.

Lillian taught second grade students for 20 years.  She did most of her teaching at Taylor Elementary School in Abilene.

At the time of Carter’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, Lillian said, “God has watched over us and blessed us in so many ways.  I think that’s why we’ve had such a happy life.”

One of the highlights of those many years together had to do with a bit unfinished business concerning Carter’s military service.  After his discharge, Carter remained in the Air Force Reserves.  At one point he served as the Liaison Officer for the Air Force Academy, and he eventually retired as a full Colonel.

On May 20, 1961, Brig. General William R. Yancey, Jr., commander of the 819th Air Division, in a ceremony held at Abilene’s Dyess Air Force Base, pinned the Distinguished Flying Cross on Carter’s chest.  He had waited 16 years for the Air Force to present him with a medal awarded in 1945.

As mentioned earlier, Carter went to his grave knowing that one of his “Sweetwater Swatter” P-47s had been retrieved from a swamp. He knew that the “Sweetwater Swatter” might one day fly again.

Yet, even if Carter’s old P-47 never hits the sky for another flight, his family will keep the memory of his aviation adventures alive for future generations.  And so will the folks in the Pioneer Museum in Sweetwater, Texas.


Nancy Robinson, “Internet holds big surprise for retired Air Force colonel,” Abilene Reporter-News, March 12, 2000.
Charles A. Lindbergh, We (New York:  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1927), 23.
Nancy Masters Robinson to the author, Oct. 12, 2005.
Juanita Daniel Zachry, A Living History:  Taylor County and the Big Country (Abilene, Texas:  Quality Press, 1999), 5.
Kearby’s Thunderbolts:  The 348th Fighter Group in World War II by John Stanaway, (St. Paul Minnesota:  Phalanx Publishing Co., Ltd., 1992), 3.

William Yenne, Aces (New York:  Berkley Books, 2000), 5

Yenne, 5

"Zero” was the American military code name for the Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen Fighter.  Americans also used the code name, “Zeke.”

Charles A. Lindbergh, The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1970), 908

Nancy Robinson, “1943:  P-47 ‘Jug’ Ace Enters a Real WWII,” Abilene Reporter-News, June 16, 1984

James Curran to author, Oct. 12, 2005

Stanaway, 70

John J. Smith to author, Oct. 23, 2005

John J. Smith to author, Oct. 23, 2005


Stanaway, 73

John J. Smith to author, Oct. 23, 2005

(accessed November 3, 2005).Oscar” was the military code name for the Nakajima Ki-43-IIb Hayabusa Fighter.

(accessed November 3, 2005)

John J. Smith to the author, Nov. 2, 2005

John J. Smith to author, Oct. 23, 2005

Carter had been promoted to captain in November, 1944

Another name for Abilene Army Airfield was Tye Air Base

Charles A. Lindbergh, We (New York:  G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1927), 150-1.  Lindbergh made a total of four emergency parachute jumps, a record that still stands today.

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