In 1949, the US Senate investigated judicial proceedings resulting from atrocities during the Battle of the Bulge, listing 12 locations where American prisoners of war and Belgian civilians were allegedly murdered by German troops. The location where 11 African American soldiers of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion were killed by the German SS after their surrender in Wereth, Belgium was omitted from the report of a Senate subcommittee.
Over the past 70 years, the event known as the Wereth Massacre has been a largely forgotten tragedy from the final phase of World War II. Today, momentum is growing in Congress to give proper recognition to the 11 men who died serving their country. The National WWII Museum, led by President and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, urges citizens, museums, and other institutions to back the current effort – reflected in House Resolution 141 – to revise the 1949 Senate report and officially recognize the service and ultimate sacrifice of these 11 men.
The 1949 Senate report surveyed a range of atrocities committed in several locations in Belgium beginning on Dec. 16, 1944, and ending nearly a month later.
The atrocities, which included the killing of approximately 350 American prisoners of war ( after their surrender) and 100 Belgian civilians, were “committed by the organization known as Combat Group Peiper, which was essentially the first SS Panzer Regiment commanded by Col. Joachim Peiper,” the report concluded. “On the eastern front, one of the battalions of the Combat Group Peiper … earned the nickname of Blow Torch Battalion after burning two villages and killing all the inhabitants thereof.”
In a letter to West Virginia Congressman David B. McKinley, sponsor of H.R. 141, Mueller said, “Until recent years, many relatives of these murdered soldiers were left to believe that their loved ones simply died in combat. Records show there was evidence of torture and disfigurement among the deceased soldiers, and some observers believe the radial ideology of Nazi SS soldiers could have influenced their brutal treatment of these artillery unit members.”
We will never forget the service of the Americans lost in this episode: Curtis Adams of South Carolina, Willliam Pritchett and George Davis Jr. of Alabama, Nathaniel Moss and George Motten of Texas, Due Turner of Arkansas, James Stewart of West Virginia, Robert Green of Georgia, and three Mississippians, Mager Bradley, Thomas Forte, and James Leatherwood.
“Under the watchful eyes of U.S. troops bearing bayonets, members of the Italo-German armistice commission in Morocco are rounded up to be taken to Fedala, north of Casablanca, on November 18, 1942. Commission members were surprised in American landing move.”
Two years ago today, Unbroken was released nationwide in US theaters. Unbroken is based on the book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand. Unbroken is the true story about Olympic runner turned World War II PoW, Louis “Louie” Zamperini. Louie and two of his crewmen survive an aircraft crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They are stranded on a raft for 47 days, only for Louie to be captured by the Japanese and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp for 2 years.
Unbroken is personally my favorite movie of all time. I am truly thankful Finn was a part of this movie, allowing me to learn about Louie. I was able to read the book before I saw the movie. After I saw the movie, I came out a better, changed person. I have never been affected by a movie or a person’s story the way I have been affected by Unbroken and Louie Zamperini. Because of Louie, I believe I am a kinder, more forgiving, “I-don’t-hold-grudges” person. Louie is one of my biggest heroes, and I have Finn to thank for that.
Unbroken directed by Angelina Jolie is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Netflix.
“Two thousand Italian prisoners march back through Eighth Army lines, led by a Bren gun carrier, in the Tunisian desert, in March 1943. The prisoners were taken outside El-Hamma after their German counterparts pulled out of the town. ”
“After the surrender of Axis forces in Tunisia in May of 1943, Allied forces took more than 275,000 prisoners of war. Shown here is one roundup of thousands of German and Italian soldiers in Tunisia seen in an Army Air Forces aerial shot, on June 11, 1943.”
“The Great Raid,” took place 70 years ago today. U.S. Army Rangers from the 6th Ranger Battalion traveled 30 miles behind Japanese lines to liberate over 500 POWs from the Cabanatuan prison camp in the Philippines.