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The Wereth Eleven remembers Black soldiers

KIRSTEN RENEAU | 2/27/2017, 8:18 a.m.
For decades, their story was untold, but now the Wereth Eleven are becoming known.
Scenes from The Wereth Eleven, a film that tells the story of 11 African American soldiers massacred during WWII Screenshot from the film

The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) – For decades, their story was untold, but now the Wereth Eleven are becoming known.

The Wereth Eleven, an award-winning film about the massacre of 11 African American soldiers, was shown by the Harrison County Historical Society as part of a Black History Month program at the Progressive Women’s Association, Feb. 15.

The docudrama tells the story of 11 members of the U.S. Army’s all-Black 333rd Field Artillery Battalion who were separated from their fellow troops during World War II’s Battle of Bulge and found themselves in a town called Wereth, Belgium. The 11 hid there from German SS troops, but were eventually found, tortured, then murdered.

The story of the Wereth Eleven went largely untold for nearly 50 years.

Kip Price, who spoke before the film was shown Feb. 15, wants to change that.

A member of the Friends of Wereth, Price has made it his goal to try to get this story to as many people as possible, making sure these veterans are remembered.

“They were (prisoners of war) at first after the battle. As they were POWs, a British plane came by and fired at the SS troopers. During that chaos, 11 soldiers escaped and ran through the woods,” Price explained. “They were only able to grab two rifles, and through the woods they went. There was snow up to their knees, bitterly cold. They walked ten miles to try and find help. They became known as the Wereth Eleven.”

One of the Wereth Eleven was a West Virginian: James Aubrey Stewart of Piedmont in Mineral County.

Price grew up in Piedmont – next door to Stewart’s nephew and four doors down from where Stewart himself had lived.

“Charles Stewart, who lived next door, he didn’t know the truth until (an investigative reporter) came and told him,” Price said. “And it just broke him down after all those years.”

“Their story is absolutely tragic, but in the same way, inspiring,” said Crystal Wimer, executive director of the Harrison County Historical Society.

She said showing the film to the community for free is important because the story of the Wereth Eleven deserves to be told.

“We think it’s important to get his story out there,” Wimer said. “It always helps to get more stories of African American history in the public because they had lives, they contributed to our American story and deserve to be recognized as part of that story.”