WAYNESFIELD — Many veterans tend to downplay their contribution for their service during wartime.
Merle Carter, of Waynesfield, is no different.
However, like any well-oiled machine, it only takes one missing part to bring down the whole system.
“I never was shot at and never heard a shot,” Carter said of serving tours in both World War II and the Korean War. “If I was shot at, I never heard it.”
Nonetheless, Carter’s unique responsibility while serving in the U.S. Army was no less important. Serving as a military police officer during World War II, Carter had the job of guarding U.S. soldiers who were in trouble with the law.
“If something could be done wrong, they done it,” Carter said of the prisoners. “There were rapes, murders, those type of things. Just like you would have anywhere else.”
After graduating from Waynesfield-Goshen High School in 1944, Carter was immediately drafted in June. However, he had torn ligaments in an ankle and was declared ineligible to join the military. A checkup six months later determined the same thing. Finally in June 1945, he was declared good to go. The war had ended by the time Carter reached Germany in October. Carter and other members of the 4th Armored Division Military Police simply stood guard and patrolled occupied Germany as peacekeepers.
“We never had a problem with the civilians,” Carter said. “They were just glad it was over.”
After leaving Germany, Carter was looking at returning home when the Korean War broke out shortly before his release.
“I was on the high seas and on my way home,” Carter said. “Then the war broke out and I got froze. In 15 more days, I would have been discharged.”
Carter said when his new unit, the 88th Military Police, arrived in Korea, they found out they weren’t even supposed to be there.
“When we got to the harbor, we found out a unit from California was supposed to go there,” Carter said. “We were already there, so they just kept us there.”
Carter had similar responsibilities in South Korea, where he patrolled cities and villages to keep the peace. Carter was later honored by the U.S. Navy for his role in escorting more than 100,000 misplaced citizens and more than 100,000 soldiers into South Korea from the north.
Carter said he never had to book a single person.
“You would just take them back and turn them over to their commanding officer if they were doing something wrong,” Carter said. “It usually had something to do with drinking. You would just turn them over and everyone seemed to appreciate that. It saved everyone a lot of paperwork.”
While wartime is not desirable for anyone, Carter’s tour of duty did provide a silver lining. While in Germany, he met his wife, Helene Ikolaenko, who had been shipped from the Ukraine to Germany to work. The Russian government had done the same with several women between the ages of 14 and 20 to work in factories in Germany. The couple married in Omaha, Nebraska, on Sept. 23, 1950, and had nine children, three of whom currently serve in the military.
Carter was one of four brothers simultaneously serving at the same time during World War II, with three of them stationed overseas.