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Bernard Shirley Carter Jr.

PVT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co C

Born 1917 in MA, Died 2002


Other residence(s): Paris; North Andover, MA; Grand Rapids, MI; Bedford Hills, NY; Yarmouthport, MA
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
College education before the war: Art Students League, art school in Ogunquit, ME
Source: 603rd Camouflage Engineer Roster provided by W. Anderson;  603rd reunion mailing list; Company D With Addresses Roster; Company C roster; 603rd Handwritten List; Col John Walker List; Dahl Letters; photo from William Anderson Collection, GALP Archive

Family History

His father, Bernard Shirley Carter, Sr., was born and died in France. He spent most of his career working for JP Morgan (his mother was Alice Morgan of the family), but served honorably in WW1 and WW2. In WW1, he was wounded in France. After the war he had a part in negotiating loans in the US on behalf of European governments and industries for post-war rebuilding. Prior to the entry of the US into WW2, he directed Red Cross efforts in the UK. In 1942, he rejoined the army as an intelligence officer, with the rank of Lt. Col, and served on General Patton's staff. He helped to plan the North Africa campaign, and was also involved in the Sicily and Normandy invasions. He was demobilized with the rank of colonel in 1945 and went back to JP Morgan. He became president of JP Morgan's European operations after Morgan & Cie was changed from a partnership to a corporation. His papers are housed at West Point. (The 1940 article below describes his experiences in France 1939-1940.)

His grandfather, John Ridgely Carter, was in the diplomatic service from 1894 to 1911. He served as First Secretary of the American Embassy in London, and his most senior post was as US Minister to Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria from 1909-1911. He then joined the JP Morgan firm in Paris, and became senior partner at Morgan & Cie, Paris. He was made a Grand Officer of the French Légion d'Honneur for his efforts during WW1. He returned to New York in 1940 after Germany invaded France. John Ridgely Carter and his daughter (who married into British royalty) were both painted by John Singer Sargent; the JR Carter painting was sold in 2007 for $1.8 million.

JR Carter was descended from Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, and the Calverts, Lords Baltimore.

BS Carter Jr's mother, Hope Thacher was descended from Antony Thacher, a founder of Yarmouth in the early 17th century. Thacher had a bad beginning to his time in America—the small boat he was in was swamped in the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635; he and his wife were washed ashore and the other 17 people on the boat (including his five children from a previous marriage) drowned.

His Own History

Bernard Shirley Carter, Jr. was born on October 22, 1917 in Boston. His parents were living primarily in Paris at the time.

He appears to have lived with his parents in Paris, but shipboard records show him returning to the states during high school in the 1930s to attend the Brooks School in North Andover MA.

He eschewed the Harvard studies and JP Morgan careers of his father and grandfather, and studied art at the Art Students League in NYC and the art school in Ogunquit ME. He taught for two years in Tucson, AZ before moving to Chicago.

NOTE: A 1954 article below says he studied at Yale, but Yale was not mentioned in his obituary and I could find no other reference to it.

He married Elizabeth Ann Wills on August 23, 1940 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was an artist in Chicago with R.B. McMillin studio, a company that specialized in advertising art. She was a society editor with the Grand Rapids Press. A couple of months later, on October 16, when he filled out his draft card, his Chicago address and employer were crossed out and a Manhattan residential address, and employer J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, were handwritten in.

His obituary says he was an interpreter during the war. His New York Guard documents say that he served in the army from September, 1942 to December, 1945. (His VA death record says his dates were January 1943 to January 1946.) A June 3, 1944 newspaper article reports that he was in the Army intelligence service in England and his wife and daughter were in NY.

After the war, he taught drawing and painting at the Parsons School of Design in NYC. He also joined the New York Guard, First Medical Battalion, in February, 1946, and in November of that year his commission as a second lieutenant was transferred to the National Guard when the NY Guard was disbanded.

His obituary reports that he was "a successful and respected watercolorist. A member of various Cape art associations and the American Watercolor Society, his work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts In Boston, and the Cape Museum of Fine Arts." He showed his work (seascapes, boats, abstract landscapes) in galleries in NY and Philadelphia throughout the 1950s. He sometimes signed his work "B. Shirley Carter." One 1954 show at the Carlen Gallery in Philadelphia was a joint show with his sister, Mimi Carter Boyer, who worked in pastels.

Interestingly enough, his daughter Anne married Arnold Bossi, who had spent 3 1/2 years in Army Intelligence himself in the US and Germany from 1958-1962.

In 1965, he cofounded the Bedford Art Center in Bedford Hills, NY where he lived with his wife and five children. They summered at Green Hill Farm in Yarmouthport, on property that had been in his family for over 300 years. He moved to Yarmouthport permanently in 1982, when he was 65. (His wife had died two years prior.)

He died on February 23, 2002 and is buried in South Yarmouth.

A retrospective exhibit of 31 of his watercolors premiered June 2017 at the Captain Bangs Hallet House Museum in Yarmouthport as a special exhibit on the 100th anniversary of his birth. (The Hallet House had been built by one of his Thacher ancestors circa 1840.)


1947 with family members

1950s with wife


1933 ship passage record

1940 Michigan marriage record

1940 draft card

1940 Grand Rapids Press article re father's experiences in France in 1939-1940 (clip attached)

1944 Grand Rapids Press article re his service in Europe (clip attached)

1944 grandfather obituary

1946 New York Guard enlistment record

1946 National Guard record

1954 article re his art gallery show in Philadelphia

1956 article re exhibit in New York

1961 father obituary

1973-1974 US Military Academy Association of Graduates document re father's wartime service (click “Search Inside”)

2002 Social Security death record

2002 VA death record

2002 Find a Grave record

2002 Obituary, Cape Cod Times (PDF attached)

Current art website listings

2017 note about retrospective exhibit of his work

Historical note re Antony Thacher's shipwreck

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