Archive for November 2023
On the program I discuss the story, which inspired my film and the co-written book, The Lost Eleven about the eleven black American soldiers from the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion and what happened to them during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
Shortly after the outbreak of Hitler's Ardennes Offensive or Battle of The Bulge in 1944, members of the all-black 333rd Artillery Battalion were just eleven miles behind the front lines. With the rapid advance of the Germans the 333rd was ordered to withdraw further west but C and Service Battery were ordered to stay behind to give covering fire to the 106th Infantry Division.
On Dec 17th the 333rd were overrun with most killed or captured. The remnants of the unit were ordered to Bastogne and incorporated into its sister unit the 969th Field Artillery Battalion. Both units provided fire support for the 101st Airborne Division in the Siege of Bastogne, subsequently being awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
11 soldiers, however, from the 333rd were separated from the unit shortly after they were overrun by the Germans. These men wound up in the little Belgian hamlet of Wereth, just 25 kilometers southwest of Malmedy, Belgium, site of another much more well known WWII atrocity.
At about 3 pm on Dec 16, 1944, the 11 men approached the first house in the nine-house hamlet of Wereth, owned by Mathias 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 Langer 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.
In the official US Army report it was revealed that the men had been brutalized, with broken legs, bayonet wounds to the head, and fingers cut off. And It was apparent that one man was killed as he tried to bandage a comrade's wounds.
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 Norman Lichtenfeld, 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 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.
It is believed that this is the only memorial to Black G.I.s, and their units, of World War II in Europe. Norman's goal is to make the Wereth 11 and all Black G.I.’s “visible” to all Americans and to history. They, like so many others, paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Please visit his site www.wereth.org where you can learn more about this dark and virtually unknown chapter from WWII.
Check out the interview on the Renegade's Rant Podcast.
In the last year of World War I, during the bloody British capture of French village Marcoing and the German retreat an encounter occurred that remains a mystery still today.
British soldier, Henry Tandey, who would become the most decorated private in the British army during the Great War had a limping helpless German soldier dead in his rifle sights,
Henry raised his rifle, paused a moment then lowered it again NOT taking the shot.The retreating German soldier nodded thanks and disappeared in the battle mist. The incident, forgotten.
Flash forward twenty years to British Prime minister Chamberlain on a peace mission to Germany and a meeting with Adolf Hitler, where a WWI painting on Hitler’s wall depicted British soldiers helping their wounded, Hitler who burned with anger at his country loss in that war surely would not have such a painting but he explained it was during the time where his own life was spared by British Private Henry Tandey.
Chamberlain, returning empty handed from his peace mission, carried a message from the Fuhrer of thanks to Tandey for sparing his life. Whether or not Chamberlain relayed the message is not known. But the story became known and Tandey confirmed during world war two that he did spare a German soldier’s life but was not certain it was Hitler’s.
Whether the much debated tale is true or not Henry Tandey had to live the rest of his life, with the label of the man who did NOT shoot the dictator who caused the darkest chapter the world has ever known.
Henry Tandey's decision to spare Adolf Hitler's life remains a haunting chapter in the annals of history. It reminds us that a single act can have profound consequences.