15 Apr 1912-29 Sep 1988
Earl McCarter, fourth child and oldest son of Eli and Betsy, had already served time in the
Navy before WWII came about. As a boy of seventeen, he and a friend accompanied Papaw to Knoxville one day in 1929 to
sell vegetables. There the two young men met a Navy recruiter and tried to enlist. Unfortunately, Earl was 3 pounds
underweight. The recruiter told him to "go away, eat a bunch of ice cream and bananas," and then come back. Earl
agreed. When he returned, his weight was okay, and according to his son, "he sailed away." His friend, unfortunately,
was rejected, so Earl left to sail the seas by himself.
Earl served in the Navy from 1929-1933, starting out in wooden boats with little in the way
of radio communications and with no radar or other modern equipment.
When war was declared, Earl volunteered to go again, but this time he chose the SeaBees, the
Construction Battalion of the US Navy. The SeaBees got their name from the abbreviation of C.B. (Construction Batalion),
and it fit well in at least two additional ways: (1) C = "Sea" and (2) B = "Bees" or hard workers. The SeaBees
built bases, roads, airstrips, and other needed facilities.
The SeaBees were established immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbour and served under
the leadership of the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps. Because skilled and experienced workers were needed, the earliest
Seabees, like Earl, were recruited not from the Navy itself or even the population itself, but from civilian construction
workers, unions, and the like. Earl and his brothers Pete and Tine were all experienced carpenters who had worked in
construction with their father for years. Earl's skill and experience helped him to become part of the new corps.
In general, SeaBees were older than normal recruits because of the emphasis on experience and skill needed to function well
in this division. The average age of SeaBees during the early part of the war was 37. Earl was 30 in 1942 when
he enlisted, so he was old for a sailor but young for a SeaBee.
SeaBees were used extensively in the South Pacific. Generally the marines would hit
an area first, secure it, and then in would go the SeaBees to constuct the needed roads, quonset huts (for housing, hospitals,
and warehouses), major airstrips, bridges, gasoline storage tanks, and whatever else was required. Earl joked that their
first assignment was always to build latrines or outhouses--"from two-holers to thirty-holers." The SeaBees were not
just construction workers, however. They, too, were trained as soldiers and had to be ready to drop their tools and
pick up rifles at a moment's notice.
Earl was a Chief Petty Officer-Carpenter mate. Most of his time in the SeaBees was as
head of the carpenter shop for the 15th Seabees.
Uncle Earl served primarily in the South Pacific where he encountered lots of hard work and
Japanese soldiers in addition to poisonous bugs, deadly spiders, venomous snakes, and so forth. When he was able to
come home, he had many stories that he shared with his brothers and sisters about being in foxholes.
Everyone who survives a war, including Uncle Earl, would probably agree with Erich Remarque's
comment in All Quiet on the Western Front: "To the soldier, chance is everything." One night when Uncle
Earl was on Santo Island, he was hot and went outside the tent to cool off and smoke. He sat on a rock for about fifteen
minutes and decided, for no reason, to walk about fifty yards away to sit on another big rock. Almost immediately, he
said, the first rock took a direct hit by a mortar shell. He had no idea as to why he decided to move when he did.
Earl did two tours overseas, both in the South Pacific. He served in the Green Islands,
Samoa, the New Hebrides, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Santo Island, and other "small rocks." He came down with dengue fever,
an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitos, and spent a couple of months in a New Zealand hospital.
Right before the war ended, Earl and his men were building hospitals on Okinawa to prepare
for the 2 million expected casualties if Japan had to be invaded. The day after the peace treaty was signed, they began
tearing down what they had built the day before.
|Thomas Israel (Pete) McCarter
Thomas Israel (Pete) McCarter
19 Jun 1916-3 Feb 1964
Thomas Israel (Pete) McCarter was the fifth child and second oldest of Eli and Betsy's sons.
It is remarkable that he was in the armed forces at all. Pete appeared strong, and he was not known to complain, but
his life as a boy and young man led one doctor to tell his parents that "you'll never be able to raise him [to adulthood.]"
The doctor's reason for saything this was that Pete had battled infantile paralysis (polio), diptheria, and rheumatic fever
as a boy. The doctor expected Pete's body to be so weakened that he would not survive to adulthood. In addition,
as a result of the polio, one of Pete's legs was slightly shorter than the other. The idea of him passing an army physical
was about zero.
Nevertheless, Pete made it to adulthood and was drafted. The family tradition says that
he was the first man with a wife and child to be drafted in Sevier County. He somehow passed his physical exam, was
inducted 9 Jun 1942, at age 28, and went off to serve his country as a member of the Army Air Corps. His service information
was destroyed in a fire at the Veterans Administration, but we do know that he was stationed for a time at Keesler Field in
Biloxi, MS, and at Ephrata Army Air Base in Ephrata, Washington.
After basic training and other preliminaries, he reached the rank of Private First Class and
on 4 Mar 1943 was sent to Chicago for training as a radio operator at the Army Air Force Tech. School there. According
to his diary, Pete really enjoyed his classes, but he was ill almost the whole time he was in Chicago. On 17 Apr 1943
Pete recorded that although he was expecting to "go to ship at 6 pm--[he] went to [the] hospital instead." His pulse
was 140 and his temperature was 103.8. He remained in the hospital until 10 Jun 1943 (almost 2 months) undergoing numerous
tests, ekgs, and the like. The doctors discovered heart problems, probably stemming from his childhood rheumatic fever,
and Pete was deemed too ill to serve. He received an honorable discharge on 10 Jun 1943 and was sent home.
Over the next 20 years he suffered a number of heart attacks, and his fatal attack on 3 Feb 1964 was considered service related.
On 12 Sep 1943, shortly after returning home, Pete joined Post 202 of the American Legion
and was an active member of the organization until his death. Though his Air Corps service had been short, he received
a military funeral.
|Eli Valentine (Tine) McCarter
Eli Valentine (Tine) McCarter
2 Feb 1920-23 Sep 1988
Eli Valentine (Tine) McCarter was Eli and Betsy's third son and seventh child. He was
a quiet, serious boy who did, however, have a witty streak of humor.
Tine entered the Army Air Corps 21 Apr 1942 at Fort Oglethorpe Georgia when he was 22 years
old. He qualified as a "marksman" and was trained to be a photography gunner on bombers. (When he wasn't shooting
bullets, he was shooting photographs.) He was a member of the 432 Bomb Squadron and served in a number of campaigns
in Europe. These campaigns included the Po Valley, the Rhineland, Naples-Faggia, Rome Arno, Southern France, Tunisia,
and Sicily. Tine was a part of the Normandy Invasion (D-Day), and was "overseas" about 2 1/2 years.
Tine received a number of medals and citations. For example, he received the Air Medal
with 1 oak leaf cluster, the EAME Campaign medal with 7 bronze Stars, and the Disinguished Unit Badge. In addition,
as a member of the 432nd Bombardment Group, he was cited by General Charles deGaulle, President of the Provisional Government
of the French Republic with the Croix de Guerre avec Talms.
One extra bit of good luck happened when Tine was sent to Nice on the French Riveria for rest
and recuperation. He ended up at the hotel where his sister Edna was stationed, and they were able to have a reunion.
Tine was honorably discharged 24 Sep 1945 at Fort Sam Houston, TX.
John Wade McCarter
17 Aug 1924-6 Mar 1975
John Wade McCarter, tenth child and youngest son of Eli and Betsy, enlisted in the US Navy
as soon as he was old enough to do so. Mamaw and Papaw were told that if John had not volunteered, he probably would
not have been drafted because he was the last son left at home. According to his sisters, John was influenced to choose
the Navy by his oldest brother Earl who had already served some time as a sailor before America entered WWII.
John was first sent to Bainbridge, MD where he received his basic training. He was then
assigned to the USS Santee, which had originally been a commercial vessel owned by Esso and known for her fast hauling
of oil. The Santee was acquired by the US Navy and turned into an escort aircraft carrier. Next John
was assigned to the USS Wasp, an aircraft carrier that was the sole ship of its class. In the Navy John rose
to the rank of coxswain on board the USS Wasp (CV7). Among other tasks, he was in charge of one of the aircraft
carrier's smaller boats and its crew. His job was to steer the smaller vessel to its destination after it left the ship.
John was on board the Wasp when it was attacked by a Japanese U-Boat in the South pacific in September of 1942.
On Tuesday, 16 Sep 1942, one month after John turned 18, three aircraft carriers, the Wasp,
the Hornet, and the North Carolina and ten other warships were escorting transport ships carrrying the 7th
Marine Regiment to Guadalcanal for reinforcements. The Wasp was fully loaded with ammunition, oil, and gasoline
to refuel and rearm the planes that were searching the area around the fleet looking for sumarines and Japanese vessels that
might do them harm. In this case, that cargo turned out to be deadly for the Wasp.
At about 2:45 on 16 Sep 1942 a lookout yelled, "three torpedoes...three points forward of
the starboard beam!" The Wasp had just been attacked by a Japanese U-boat.
The Captain tried to avoid the torpedoes, but it was too late. Two of the shells hit
the general area of gasoline and ammunition storage. The result was devastating. Fiery explosions tore through
the forward part of the ship, tossing bodies, body parts, jagged pieces of metal from exploding planes, and debris from anti-aircraft
guns in a fireworks display from hell. The forward water mains were destroyed and could not be used to fight the fires.
As the Wasp began to list, gasoline spilled out onto the sea and caught fire.
Three major gasoline vapor explosions erupted and forced the captain and executive officer to give the "Abandon Ship" order.
It took 40 minutes for those who were still alive to make it off the ship. The big ships nearby could not get too close
to the Wasp in her distress because of the submarine menace, but smaller ships were able to rescue 1,946 sailors
who had managed to survive.
The Wasp continued to drift in the flaming sea with her dead crewmembers still on
board. The gasoline and oil fires by then had gutted the stern of the ship, too. As darkness fell, four more explosions
ravaged the ship. Finally the Lansdowne, one of the smaller ships participating in the rescue of survivors, was ordereed
to fire five torpedoes into the Wasp's hull. Three hit, but the Wasp still did not sink. She
floated in the fiery sea until 9 pm that night when she finally sank, like the Titanic, bow first. Her final
resting place was somewhere southeast of San Cristobal Island.
The Wasp's demise was so horrendous that many of the surviving sailors suffered tremendous
damage both physically and mentally. Uncle John told stories of some of his fellow survivors who had to be tied to their
bunks because of their mental stress. John was injured in the sinking, and one of his sisters recalls that "for years
after the war he had shrapnel taken out of his back and neck." All the survivors were faced with the loss of their dead
crewmates who were unable to be removed and went down with the ship.
After escaping from the Wasp, John was sent for a time to the Naval Training Station
in Newport, Rhode Island and then was reassigned to the USS Midway, another aircraft carrier and the lead ship of
her class, where he served the remainder of his enlistment. He received a number of ribbons and medals including the
American Theatre ribbon, Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign medal, the European-African ribbon, the Phillipines
Liberation ribbon, and a total of 9 gold and bronze stars.
John was honorably discharged 11 Nov 1945 in Nashville, TN
"Discharge Papers." Edna Izena McCarter
"Discharge Papers." Eli Valentine McCarter
"Discharge Papers." John Wade McCarter
"First Sevier WAAC Expects Call Soon" Knoxville News-Sentinel. Photocopy.
"Five Children of M'Carters Are in Service." Knoxville News-Sentinel. Photocopy.
Letters and e-mails from Living Descendants and Relatives of John Wade McCarter and Earl McCarter.
Letter to Mrs. Opal McCarter from S. D. Wilson, M.D. Chief, Medical Service, Veterans Administration
Center, Mountain Home, TN, 6 Feb 1964.
McCarter family traditions, stories, letters, etc.
McCarter, Pete. Diary. 03 Mar 1943-15 Jan 1944
"USS Midway." Wikipedia.com.
"USS Santee." Wikipedia.com.
"USS Wasp." Wikipedia.com.
Eli and Betsy McCarter Family Web Site
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