Everyone knows of the Tuskegee Airmen and some know of the 761st Tank Battalion and the Red Ball Express. However, the majority of the Black G.I.s in World War II, 260,000 in the European Theatre of Operations, were not forgotten to history, they were simply never acknowledged. They are the ‘invisible” soldiers of World War II. They include eleven young artillerymen of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion (FAB) who were murdered by the SS, after surrendering, during the Battle of the Bulge-the Wereth 11.
The 333rd Field Artillery Battalion was a 155mm Howitzer unit that had been in action since coming ashore at Utah Beach on June 29, 1944. Typical of most segregated units in World War II, it had white officers and black enlisted men. At the time of the Battle of the Bulge, the unit was located in the vicinity of St.Vith, Belgium. Specifically it was in the small village of Schonberg, having arrived there in October of 1944. The Service battery was west of the Our River, while the firing batteries (A,B,and C) were across the east side of the Our river in support of the Army VII Corps and especially the 106th Infantry Division.
In the early morning hours of December 16th, German artillery began shelling the Schonberg area. By the afternoon, with reports of rapid German infantry and armored progress, the 333rd FAB was ordered to displace further west but, at the request of the 106th Div. artillery commander, to leave ‘C’ Battery and Service Battery in position to support the 14th Cavalry and 106th Division. By the morning of December 17th, the Germans were in Schonberg, and in control of the bridge across the river that led to St. Vith. Service Battery tried to displace to St. Vith through the village and were brought under heavy fire. Those not killed were forced to surrender. However eleven men of different Batteries who were caught on the east side of the river went overland in a northwest direction in the hopes of reaching American lines. At about 3 pm, they approached the first house in the nine-house hamlet of Wereth, Belgium, owned by Mathius Langer.A friend of the Langer's was also present.
The men were cold, hungry, and exhausted after walking cross-country through the deep snow. They had two rifles between them. The family welcomed them and gave them food. But this small part of Belgium did not necessarily welcome Americans as “Liberators.” This area had been part of Germany before the First World War and many of its citizens still saw themselves as Germans and not Belgians. The people spoke German but had been forced to become Belgian citizens when their land was given to Belgium as part of the First World War repatriations. Unlike the rest of Belgium, many people in this area welcomed the Nazis in 1940 and again in 1944, because of their strong ties to Germany. Mathius Langer was not one of these. At the time he took the Black Americans in he was hiding two Belgian deserters from the German Army and had sent a draft age son into hiding so the Nazis would not conscript him.
About 4 pm, a four man German patrol of the 1st SS Division, belonging to Kampfgruppe Knittel (recent information shows these men to be from 3./SS-PzAA1 LSSAH). arrived in Wereth in their Schwimwagen vehicle. It is believed a Nazi sympathizer informed the SS that there were Americans at the Langer house. When the SS troops approached the house the eleven Americans surrendered quickly, without resistance. The Americans were made to sit on the road, in the cold, until dark. The Germans then marched them down the road. Gunfire was heard in the night. In the morning, villagers saw the bodies of the men in a ditch at the corner of a cow pasture. Because they were afraid that the Germans might return, they did not touch the dead soldiers. The snow covered the bodies and they remained entombed in the snow until January when villagers directed members of the 99th Div. I&R platoon to the site. The bodies had been frozen and unmolested since the massacre The official report noted that the men had been brutalized, with broken legs, bayonet wounds to the head, and fingers cut off. It was apparent that one man was killed as he tried to bandage a comrade's wounds Prior to their removal an Army photographer took photographs of the bodies to document the brutality of the massacre.
An investigation was immediately begun with a “secret” classification. Testimonies were taken of the 99th Div. men, the Army photographer, the Langers and the woman who had been present when the soldiers arrived. She testified that she told the SS the Americans had left! The case was then forwarded to a War Crimes Investigation unit. However the investigation showed that no positive identification of the murderers could be found (i.e. no unit patches, vehicle numbers, etc) only that they were from the 1st SS Panzer Division. By 1948 the “secret” classification was cancelled and the paperwork filed away. The murder of the Wereth 11 was seemingly forgotten and unavenged!
Seven of the men were buried in the American Cemetery at Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, and the other four were returned to their families for burial after the war ended. The Wereth 11 remained unknown, it seemed, to all but their families until 1994.
In 2001, three Belgium citizens embarked on the task of creating a fitting memorial to these men and additionally to honor all Black GI’s of World War II. With the help of an American physician in Mobile, Alabama, whose father fought and was captured in the Battle of the Bulge, a grassroots publicity and fund-raising endeavor was begun. The land was purchased and a fitting memorial was created (see Photos) There are now road signs indicating the location of the memorial, and the Belgium Tourist Bureau lists it in the 60th Anniversary “Battle of the Bulge” brochures. The dedication of the memorial was held in 2004 in an impressive military ceremony (see Dedication photos). Further research on the men and their unit continues. Two families of the murdered men have been located, as well as three U.S. gravesites.
For further information on donations or placing a unit plaque at the memorial site please contact .
Directions to the site can be found on most mapping programs- contact us for any problems in finding the memorial. Thank You.
For donations, please make checks payable to:
U.S. Wereth Memorial ($) c/o Norman S. Lichtenfeld, M.D.
6701 Airport Boulevard, Suite B-110
Mobile, AL 36608
U.S. Wereth Memorial (EUROS) c/o Adda Rikken
31a Rue d'Ourthe
Gouvy 6670, Belgium
My name is Kobie, I am 12-years old. I see my dad working so hard all the time to try to make ends meet that I told him I wanted to do something to help out with the family bills and I wanted to make some spending money for myself. As early as age 9 and 10 I was accused of following in my Great Grandfathers entrepreneurial footsteps. One example is I got in trouble at school for buying "pokemon" cards in bulk and selling them at a mark up to my fellow students. Funny thing is the principal did not see the humor in it so I was shut down. Another example is a good friend of mine Mr. Mike Green owns an army navy store. Mr. Green gave me a pocket knife for doing some work for him at the store. When I went to my Grandpa's house someone asked to see my knife and they said "wow-that is a neat knife I sure wish I had one like it." I slapped that knife down on the table and started negotiating a price, "what will you give me for it?"
When I was 11-years old during the summer vacation I ran a snow cone stand in front of my fathers machine shop. While I made pretty good money each day I really did not enjoy the snow cone stand as the only customers I had were truck drivers and salesmen. My fathers machine shop is located in the middle of an industrial district. There are not many kids shopping for snow cones in an industrial park. I told my dad I wanted to do something different and meet more people so my dad and I began to look for something else I could do to make money.
My father and I had been searching for a project that he and I could both do together as a father/son project. For several years we had hinted that selling dog tags might be fun. Selling dog tags seemed interesting to both of us and we decided to purchase a machine and give it a try.
My dad calls DogTagsRus"a father/son character building experience."
Dad and I agreed that we would give the dog tags a try and if it did not interfere with my school and other activities I could keep the business. We also came to the agreement that I could keep 10% of my profits for myself to spend on things I want. Another 10% is tithed and another 10% is spent on the business. The remaining 70% goes directly into my college fund.
DogTagsRus first began making dog tags on March 20th 2004. Our first attempt at selling dog tags was at the Side Walk Sale, a computer swap meet that takes place twice a month in downtown Dallas.
Soon after taking possession of our first Addressograph we found that there was a lot more to dog tags or identification tags than just buying a machine and "punching" out dog tags. We found out the history of dog tags could fill volumes and that dog tags have become a part of our culture just like camouflage is to the military or scrubs are to the medical profession.
I want to thank each and every customer for their order in advance.
* Search for POW/MIA family/extended family member information.
"We are seeing the generations grown up enough to want answers on grandfathers and uncles ... many times when mom of grandmom just wouldn't talk about it," Mary said. "We help these new family members to get missing records, continue the fight and keep the pressure on for answers to lost loved ones." There are 90,000 men still unaccounted-for from WWII,
Korea and Vietnam.
* Find the person whose name is engraved on a POW bracelet.
Five million Americans bought POW bracelets during the 1970s. The bracelets were originally created to call attention to those lost or missing in Vietnam. The bracelet is a simple metal band engraved with the name of a POW or MIA and the date he was lost.
"Few were able to track all the planes coming home, watch all the news or read all the papers to see if their POW came home," Mary said. "But we do have the answer on whether each and every POW from Vietnam, Korea, WWII, or the Gulf War made it home."
* Get regular mail forwarded to your special former POW, with the hope he will write a letter to you.
Because of privacy issues, the Web site does not post any veteran's street address. "We make no promises that vets will write back," Mary said, "but many do."
* Read biographies.
There are 3,600 in all of those who are unaccounted-for and inspirational stories of those who returned. For example, U.S. Navy Capt. Ernest M. Moore, Jr., was shot down March 11, 1967, and released March 4, 1973. "It is very important that those six years of my life leave no feelings of bitterness within me," he said. "I have worked hard to make those bleak years contribute something of value to me as a man--as a human being."
* Weed out phony POWs and MIAs.
The phonies are easy to spot because they like to brag: 700 are listed on Schantag's Web site alone. (NOTE: NOW 1200+)
The Schantags work very closely with a half-dozen POW organizations ranging from the American Ex-POWs to the National Alliance of Families, as well as local or unique veterans groups. Their POW bios are used at the Nixon Library and Andersonville's National POW Museum. They have helped numerous towns, states and counties validate names for memorials and ceremonies.
Testimonials to their work are abundant. "I am the daughter of a man who is still unaccounted-for from Vietnam," Diane Moore said. "And I am familiar with the POW Network. Chuck and Mary are up-front and very honest."
You can contact the Schantags by logging onto their Web site: www.pownetwork.org, or writing to: POW Network, Box 68, Skidmore, MO 64487-0068, or calling: (660) 928-3304.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group
VFW Magazine, Sept, 2003 by Amy Houts
POW network helps find answers: A dedicated
Missouri couple makes information on former POWs readily available to the public.
Chuck and Mary Schantag of Skidmore, Mo., began explaining the POW (Prisoner of War) Network by listing what it is not. "It's not a veterans group; it's not government-sponsored; there are no members; it is not for profit," Mary said. Then she defined the network, founded in 1989: "It is an educational group. We provide information on POWs. We provide answers."
Chuck added, "We have the biggest library on POWs that is open to the public" It includes a 5,000-page Web site, which focuses on Vietnam veterans and gets 50,000 hits per week.
Chuck is a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marine Corps until he was wounded on Jan. 31, 1968. He left some friends behind, and when he found out what happened to them, he decided to put it on the Web. That was nearly 15 years ago. So now he is helping others. www.pownetwork.org
You said, "the human being who wears it within a huge and faceless organization. The armed forces demand obedience, commitment, and duty to a higher cause"
but the truth is; We saw our military service in a much smaller sphere. We worked with a small group of men and they became our brothers. We would do anything for our brothers, including give our lives to protect them. The Navy might have been huge and faceless but not your band of brothers. The armed forces may have demanded "duty to a higher cause" but we always thought of our friends. You might look at the USS Yorktown and see a giant deadly warship, but I looked at it as my home, where my brother, Phil, Kraig, Stretch, my older brothers Danny, Chief Relleve, Chief Herry and Lt. Jackson lived with me. This is the essense of military service-we love our brothers. We tolerate the Navy.
USS Yorktown Sailor
We have a pilot's log book that my Dad carried in his left breast pocket. As he flew his glider into Holland, a piece of shrapnel - one of many that hit him - lodged in the middle of the log book, right where his heart was. If the book hadn't been there, he might have died at that moment.
Viet Nam Vet
TO HONOR THE FALLEN
WHEN CALLED TO SERVE
THEY WENT AWAY
TO PLACES NEAR
AND FAR WAY
A CALL TO STAND
IN OTHER LANDS
TO ANSWERED THE HOMELAND'S NEED
SOME WENT WITH SOGGY KNEES
OR FLEW THE SKY'S
OVER THE OTHER GUYS
THEY SAILED THE SEAS
AND BROUGHT SUPPORT
AND WISHED SOMETIMES TO BE IN PORT
THEY TREAD UPON THIS FOREIGN SOIL
AND SOME GAVE ALL
FOR ANSWERING THE CALL
THANKS TO THEM YOU ARE FREE
WHAT HIGHER GIFT FOR THOSE IN NEED
YOU THINK OF THEM- JUST NOW AND THEN
A PRAYER TO THEM I HOPE YOU SEND
TO THOSE THAT BONES LAY IN THE GROUND
HONOR THEM THAT DUTY BOUND
LIFE SO DEARLY SHED FOR THEE
KEEPING THIS NATION FREE
YOUR WHO YOU ARE BECAUSE OF THESE
THEY FOUGHT AND DIED TO KEEP --YOU-- FREE
Dog Tag Story. This involves Captain Carswell, a combination of Colonel Klink, General Patton, Simon LaGree and Captain Bligh--not very good in any role--incompetent and disagreeable with a covering relative or friend in a higher Command.
Others are the Segel Twins, the non-coms and members of I Company, 242nd Infantry Regiment, 42nd Rainbow Infantry Division. Brother Ronald and I arrived at
Camp Gruber, Muskogee, Oklahoma in May 1944 after comprehensive basic training and specialized training under competent officers. We were addressed by the Company Commander Captain Carswell on the first day. His words and demeanor made me tell Ronald that we would not serve in combat under such a leader We would plan to somehow transfer to Headquarters Company as soon as an opportunity arose. This was implemented by the dog tag incident.Each Company Commander was charged to pick up metal chains to hold dog tags around the neck rather than the plastic or other necklace materials used by the men. This, of course, was to be sure that dog tags were not lost in combat or fire and soldiers would not be identifiable.
Captain Carswell neglected this responsibility even though being question many times by the non-coms (they also disliked the Captain). The non-coms knew that we were to be inspected by the Inspector General. With their help, Ronald cut up lengths of string into about one hundred inch and a half pieces. These knotted together made a very grotesque necklace. Wearing this under his shirt the Inspector General was directed to Ronald in formation by the prodding of the non-coms and the standard question of "lets see that you are wearing your dog tags". A very startled Inspector turned to Ronald and almost unable to contain himself asked Ronald "Why are you wearing that terrible thing!"
Ronald's answer was "Because Captain Carswell was too lazy to pick up our chains even after much prodding and higher orders". Captain Carswell was placed on one
month restriction and the twins transferred to Headquarters Company Telephone and Radio section where they had wanted to be when they arrived at Camp Gruber.
Captain Carswell was relieved in combat by a new Second Lieutenant for cowardness in the face of the enemy. He was then told by the Colonel that he was responsible for the deaths of several of his solders. I Company despite the Captain had an excellent combat history. This group of very intelligent fine men who went on into very responsible post war positions and lasting comradeships owed much to the Captain. Under a tyrant the men had a common cause and fellowship to succeed despite the so-called leader. This was accomplished very well by the men of I Company
Donald L. Segel Pacific Palisades,CA.
Francesca with her son Jared Great Uncle Angelo Viale who
served in World War II as a staff Sergeant
Angelo's WWII Angels is a non-profit organization that assists people in returning lost WWII dog tags (or others) to their rightful owners. If you are in possession of a lost dog tag and would like to return it we are here to help you locate either the veteran or his/her family member.
We are also available to help trace any other lost military dog tags that you'd like to return to the owners. Our work is not limited to WWII dog tags. If you have research and genealogy skills and would like to become a volunteer please contact Francesca Cumero at or
call (707) 362-0138. www.ww2tags.org