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World War II Hero: Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter

Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Artist depiction of Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter shooting enemy tanks

Artist depiction of Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter shooting enemy tanks

In 1942, Charles Carpenter enlisted in the US Army. He was a commissioned second Lieutenant. His job was to fly light observation aircraft. Carpenter flew a light observation aircraft and accumulated substantial flight training to perform enemy surveillance and observation as well as artillery scouting missions, and more. One day, Carpenter noticed a pilot had put a bazooka on his plane for anti-tank fire. After receiving approval from his Command Headquarters, Carpenter placed two bazookas on the wings of his plane. He called his aircraft “Rosie The Rocketer.” He did some testing and eventually placed a total of six bazookas on his aircraft. Carpenter wasn't the first to put a bazooka on his plane, but many agree, he was the most successful at using this configuration in battle.

Personal Life

On August 29, 1912, Charles Carpenter was born in Eddington, Illinois. His father's name was Frederick Merle Carpenter and his mother's name was Lois M. Martson. After he graduated, Carpenter moved to Danville, Kentucky. There he taught history at Moline, Illinois high school. On July 3, 1940, Carpenter married Elda May Fritchle.

Arrival in France

In 1944, after being promoted, Carpenter was sent to France and assigned to combat duty with the 1st Bombardment Division. He was assigned a Piper Club light aircraft to perform his assigned surveillance and artillery support mission. His unit was supporting the U.S. Third Army under the command of General George S. Patton. Including cargo and passenger, Carpenter's plane had a weight capacity of approximately 231 pounds. It also had no radio.

Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter by his plane

Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter by his plane

Battle of Lorient

Allied forces had encircled the German forces in the town of Lorient. Carpenter became increasingly frustrated at not being able to attack Nazi forces. These were times when assault aircraft were busy flying other combat missions and the Nazi forces were out of reach of Allied artillery. The bazookas on Carpenter's plane each fired a single rocket-propelled anti-tank grenade. He used a battery ignited toggle switch to fire them. Carpenter got permission to attack Nazi forces and discovered his airborne bazookas were very effective when it came to immobilizing Nazi tank targets.

Media Recognition

During this battle, Carpenter was able to knock four tanks and a German armored car. His success during the battle of Lorient made him popular with the press. Articles were done about him by the Associated Press, Stars and Stripes, the New York Sun, Popular Science as well as Liberty Magazine, and others. Carpenter would tell reporters his idea of fighting a war was to attack, attack, and then attack again.

The bazookas on Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter's plane being loaded

The bazookas on Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter's plane being loaded

Ground Warfare

During one occasion, Carpenter was flying his plane to look for possible landing fields. He landed and was scouting an area when German infantrymen attacked his location. Carpenter jumped onto a Sherman tank and began firing a .50-caliber machine gun. He then began to direct American troops to attack the Nazis. They were facing a superior number of German soldiers. Carpenter directed tank gunfire and machine-gun fire for almost an hour. The German soldiers were forced to retreat.

Court-Martial

During the battle, Carpenter's tank came under fire by Allied Forces. He accidentally shot at an Allied Sherman bulldozer tank and blew off its blade. After the battle, Sherman was immediately placed under arrest. He was threatened with death by firing squad. Carpenter's commanding officer tried to support him and get the charges dismissed. The decision was made that Carpenter would be court-martialed. This decision was ultimately overturned by General George Patton. Not only were the trial proceedings stopped, but Patton awarded Carpenter a Silver Star for bravery. Patton stated that Carpenter is the type of American fighting man he wanted to have in his army.

Battle of Arracourt

This started when a Nazi armored division launched a surprise tank attack on American forces. They were successful in pinning down many 4th Armored Division units. Carpenter got into his aircraft and struggled to see the ground because the fog was heavy. Eventually, the fog cleared and Carpenter saw a company of Nazi armored cars and Panther tanks heading toward Arraourt. Facing a barrage of German infantry fire, Carpenter conducted several assaults against the Nazi formation. He emptied all of his bazooka tubes. Carpenter returned to his base and reloaded his plane two more times that day. During the battle, Carpenter fired 16 bazooka rockets at the enemy. He was able to immobilize two Panther tanks and several armored vehicles. The German tank formation had to eventually retreat. Carpenter's heroic actions made it possible for the pinned down units from the 4th Armored Division to escape being captured or killed.

Combat Service

By the end of World War II, Carpenter had destroyed numerous German armored cars as well as immobilized approximately 14 Nazi tanks. He was credited officially with completely destroying two Tiger 1 tanks among the six tanks he destroyed. Carpenter also participated in many ground combat actions. His rank was Major during the war, and he was often referred to as “The Lucky Major.” This is because he was never injured during the many times he was involved in combat. His bravery and dedication were recognized by the US Army. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Carpenter was also awarded the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star as well as the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Death

Carpenter was given an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army. Carpenter then went back to his job at Urbana High School. He worked there until his death. Carpenter became very sick during 1945. He died on March 22, 1966. He was 53 years old. Carpenter was buried in Illinois at Edgington Cemetery.

Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter's restored plane

Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter's restored plane

Carpenter's Plane

The L-4H plane that Carpenter flew during World War II was located at Österreichisches Luftfahrtmuseum aviation museum at Graz Airport in Germany after the war. In October 2017, the plane was acquired by Collings Foundation. Its acquisition was done to restore it to its World War II appearance. The restorer was located in La Pine, Oregon. The restoration was completed on July 4, 2020. It is now located at the Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville, Florida.

Sources

War History

Wikipedia

World War II in Color

Air and Space Magazine

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Readmikenow

Comments

Readmikenow (author) on December 09, 2020:

MG, thanks. He was truly a hero and an inspiration.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 08, 2020:

What a wonderful article. The man deserves credit for so many things and best shows his indomitable spirit. It was great reading it.

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