World War II's 333rd Field Army Battalion was composed of some of the first black enlisted men trained in combat, rather than service positions.
The 11 men who were the 333rd’s Charley Battery quickly made names for themselves through their deadly accuracy with artillery, destroying a German tank 9 miles away in 90 seconds. But that fame also made them targets to a German army gasping for its last breath.
On December 16, 1944, Charley Battery was separated from their unit. They found safety in the tiny 9-house hamlet of Wereth, Belgium, just on the German border. The Nazi SS was tipped off & raided the village, demanding the soldiers’ surrender. To prevent any harm to the locals, Charley Battery surrendered peacefully.
Rather than being kept as prisoners of war or executed immediately, the 11 men were brutally tortured. Many were missing fingers, had broken legs, suffered bayonet & barrel stock wounds to the eyes & head, and suffered multiple, non-lethal gunshot wounds before they were finally killed & left in the snow, where their bodies remained until documented by the Army in February 1945.
These weren’t the only American soldiers the SS committed war crimes against. But they were the only soldiers whose sacrifice went seemingly ignored. The 1949 Senate Armed Forces subcommittee recorded a dozen similar SS atrocities, but omitted the massacre of Charley Battery. On the 50th Anniversary of the soldiers’ deaths, the son of the man who’d sheltered them began the monument pictured here, memorializing them as the "Wereth 11." It’s the only known monument in Europe that honors the black soldiers who fought in World War II.
In 2013, Congress passed a resolution reissuing the original 1949 subcommittee report to include the Wereth 11, awarding them with multiple combat medals, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Like many black soldiers who fought in American wars at home & abroad, the Wereth 11 bravely defended a country that didn’t defend them. Throughout our country’s history, but now more than ever, we’ve needed to be reminded that red-blooded Americans come in every color.