On Dec. 16, 1944, the 155mm Howitzer unit was ordered to displace its position in the Schonberg area of Belgium as German infantry and armored elements rapidly advanced. One battery was ordered to stay to protect the 14th Cav. and 106th Division.
The following morning, the Germans arrived, and overwhelmed the American troops. Eleven men of different batteries within the 333rd tried to make it through deep snow to American lines. Cut off, they met in a small community of Wereth, where they were hidden by the town’s mayor. They were cold, hungry and had two rifles between them.
When a four man German patrol of the 1st SS Division found the men, they quickly surrendered. Nevertheless, they were marched to a ditch where they were brutalized (as autopsies later determined) and shot dead.
The bodies lay in the snow for two months until the townspeople pointed them out to a U.S. intelligence platoon. Some of the men were buried at an American cemetery in Belgium, and others were buried in the states.
Over the last decade, the townspeople of Wereth have worked to turn a modest memorial at the site into what may be the only memorial to black G.I.’s of World War II in Europe.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently reported the story, and that there is a film to honor these soldiers in the works.
The movie, according to Philadelphia director Rob Child’s web site, is due to be released in February, 2011, for Black History Month.
Although its unclear whether the men fought back, Child told the Post-Gazette he considers them heroes. To him, their injuries suggest they put up a fight.
Norman Lichtenfeld, the son of one of the soldier, is an Alabama surgeon. He has visited the memorial, he is writing a book about the 333rd and he maintains a web site dedicated to the Wereth 11. He said they are heroes because they fought for a country even though it did not consider them equal citizens.
‘They believed in America when America didn’t believe in them.’
(Via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)