SGT. JIMMY CARTER
Jimmy Carter is a volunteer at the V.A. Medical Center in Long Beach,
California. In the 40s, he was an 18 year old enlistee from Owensboro, Kentucky,
assigned to the Army Air Corps 15th Army, 5th Bomb Wing, 2nd Bomb Group, 20th Bomb
Squadron, as a tail gunner.
On a bombing mission over Germany, Jimmys B-17 was hit and shot down. Jimmy caught
some AA flak in the arm. Another gunner was shot up badly, but still alive. Jimmy tossed
this gunner out of the B-17 before bailing out, seconds before the aircraft blew up. On
his way down, in his chute, Jimmy was shot again in the left shoulder by a passing Nazi
Before landing, Jimmy could see German civilians moving toward his landing area. Jimmy
landed before the Germans arrived, got out of his chute, and hid in a ravine. That night,
he heard an approaching motorcycle. Jimmy grabbed the biggest stick he could find and
crawled out of the ravine. When the motorcycle was nearly upon him, Jimmy recognized that
its driver was an SS Trooper. He rose up and caught the driver flush in the face with all
the power left in his wounded body, killing the Trooper instantly. Jimmy then hid the SS
Trooper and his motorcycle in the brush near the ravine.
Moving along the road, in the darkness, Jimmy watched as an ammunition truck approached.
With one grenade, he managed to blow the truck to pieces. Further on down the road, Jimmy
came onto an area with a great deal of activity. Parked alongside the road was a
driverless aviation tanker. Jimmy opened up its valves and tossed a grenade, blowing up
the tanker, before moving into the cover of night and escaping further down the road.
Eventually, Jimmy passed out and was found by Nazi forces. Because of the severity of his
wounds, the Nazis did not associate him with the destruction of the truck or tanker.
Jimmy was then taken to Buchanwald, where he spent the remainder of the war in a 6x8
solitary confinement cell. He recalls a visit by Adolph Hitler and his entourage. Hitler
did not come into the camp, but remained outside. Jimmy was summoned from his cell and
taken to where Hitler waited. Through a translator, Hitler asked Jimmy where his base of
operations was and what their bombing mission was. Jimmy would only reply with his name,
rank and serial number. His lack of response resulted in his being rifle-butted across the
While hurting and in considerable pain from ongoing torture, Jimmy would be seen from time
to time by a Serbian doctor. He and the doctor, who now lives in Belgrade, remain friends
to this day. In 1945, Jimmy was among those liberated by the 1st Ukraine Army. He still
experiences discomfort and pain from his war experiences, but for a man in his 70s,
his presence is strong
a throwback to another generation of Americans
Brokaw refers to as The Greatest Generation.