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U.S. Colored Troop

Clip 2 from 'Black Confederates: The Forgotten Men in Gray'


African Americans in the Colored Troop




African Americans in WW2


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    Almighty God, whose Providence watcheth over all things, and in whose hands is the disposal of all events, we look up to Thee for Thy protection and blessing amidst the apparent and great dangers with which we are encompassed. Thou hast, in Thy wisdom, permitted us to be threatened with the many evils of an unnatural and destructive war. Save us, we beseech Thee, from the hands of our enemies. Watch over our fathers, and brothers, and sons, who, trusting in Thy defence and in the righteousness of our cause, have gone forth to the service of their country. May their lives be precious in Thy sight. Preserve them from all the dangers to which they may be exposed. Enable them successfully to perform their duty to Thee and to their country, and do Thou, in Thine infinite wisdom and power, so overrule events, and so dispose the hearts of all engaged in this painful struggle, that it may soon end in peace and brotherly love, and lead not only to the safety, honor and welfare of our Confederate States, but to the good of Thy people, and the glory of Thy great name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. June 13th, 1861.


 

The descendants of  Edmond and Peggy Jackson Jones,who serve in the United States Military
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U.S. World War Idraft registration for Henry Washington Smith in 1917, Henry Washington Smith husband to Edna Howard Smith.
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Name: Joseph C. Jones Jr.
Birth Year: 1914
Race: Negro, citizen (Black)
Nativity State or Country: Mississippi
State of Residence: Mississippi
County or City: Lauderdale
   
Enlistment Date: 10 Oct 1942
Enlistment State: Mississippi
Enlistment City: Camp Shelby
Branch: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA
Branch Code: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA
Grade: Private
Grade Code: Private
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
   
Education: Grammar school
Marital Status: Single, with dependents
Height:  
Weight: 150
 

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Johnny Jones served in the U.S. Army , son of Joseph C. and Annie L. Fitch Jones


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Robert L. Jones Sr. served in the U.S. Navy ,son of Joesph C. and Annie L. Fitch Jones
Name: Robert Lee Jones Sr. 
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 5 Dec 1924
Death Date: 25 May 1987
   
Branch 1: NAVY
Enlistment Date 1: 4 Jun 1943
Release Date 1: 10 Mar 1946
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 Henry L. Smith, son of  Henry W.and Edna Howard Smith

Name: Henry L. Smith
Birth Year: 1920
Race: Negro, citizen (Black)
Nativity State or Country: Mississippi
State of Residence: Mississippi
County or City: Lowndes
   
Enlistment Date: 23 Sep 1944
Enlistment State: Mississippi
Enlistment City: Camp Shelby
Branch: No branch assignment
Branch Code: No branch assignment
Grade: Private
Grade Code: Private
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
   
Education: 1 year of high school
Civil Occupation: Farm hands, general farms
Marital Status: Married
Height: 00
Weight: 100
 
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Norman Smith , son of Henry W. and Edna Howard Smith 
Name: Norman Smith
Birth Year: 1922
Race: Negro, citizen (Black)
Nativity State or Country: Mississippi
State of Residence: Mississippi
County or City: Lauderdale
   
Enlistment Date: 17 Apr 1944
Enlistment State: Georgia
Enlistment City: Fort Benning
Branch: No branch assignment
Branch Code: No branch assignment
Grade: Private
Grade Code: Private
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
   
Education: 2 years of high school
Civil Occupation: Sales clerks
Marital Status: Single, without dependents
Height: 06
Weight: 166

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Esther D. Jones Wallace husband
Name: Jake Wallace
Birth Year: 1920
Race: Negro, citizen (Black)
Nativity State or Country: Alabama
State of Residence: Mississippi
County or City: Jones
   
Enlistment Date: 3 Nov 1945
Branch: Quartermaster Corps
Branch Code: Quartermaster Corps
Grade: Private First Class
Grade Code: Private First Class
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for Hawaiian Department
Component: Regular Army (including Officers, Nurses, Warrant Officers, and Enlisted Men)
Source: Enlisted Man, Philippine Scout or recall to AD of an enlisted man who had been transferred to the Erc
   
Education: Grammar school
Marital Status: Single, with dependents
Height: 68
Weight: 600
 

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                                                             Annie L. Jones Lofton husband     
Name: David Lofton
Birth Year: 1924
Race: Negro, citizen (Black)
Nativity State or Country: Mississippi
State of Residence: Mississippi
County or City: Forrest
   
Enlistment Date: 8 Apr 1943
Enlistment State: Mississippi
Enlistment City: Camp Shelby
Branch: No branch assignment
Branch Code: No branch assignment
Grade: Private
Grade Code: Private
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
   
Education: Grammar school
Civil Occupation: Farm hands, general farms
Marital Status: Single, with dependents
Height: 44
Weight: 042
 
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Thomas Nelson served in the U.S. Air Force, son of Teka and Mamie Jones Nelson


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Elijah horn served in the U.S. Army , son of Isom and Emma Lou Jones Horn

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Major Alllen L. served in the U.S. Air Force , son of Jake and Esther D. Jones Wallace

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Adonis Jenkins Jr. served in the U.S. Army, son of Adonis Sr. and Doris Nelson Jenkins


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Carl Jenkins Sr. served in the U.S. Army, son of Adonis Sr. and Doris Nelson Jenkins


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Thomas Harris served in the U.S. Army, son of Thomas Nelson


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Gerald K. Wallace served in the U.S. Army , son of Jake and Esther D. Jones Wallace
 
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Charles Nelson served in the U.S. Air Force , son of Thomas and Charlie M. Rogers Nelson


Denise Perryman served in U.S. Army, daughter of Clarence and Margerie Nelson Perryman



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Derek Braggs served in the US. Marines, husband to Diana Wilson Braggs, Diana daughter of Major Allen L. Wallace.
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Samuel D. Wallace served in the U.S. Marines ,son of Elder Jeffrey and Pastor Teresa A. Wallace Moton


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Carl Jenkins Jr. served U.S. Amry, son of Carl Jenkins Sr.


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David Garrard served in the US. Army , son of Howard and Patrica Lofton Mckay Garrard.

 
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PVT. James Conner Jr., served US. Amry, son of Shandella Wallace Myles
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PFC George Davis Jr. served in the U.S. Army ,son of George Sr. and Jennie Bolden Davis                     
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WW II purple heart
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PFC George Davis Jr..,served in wwII

the story of our family member PFC George Davis Jr. ,Wereth Eleven, There  were a group of African American army soldiers serving in the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion who were massacred by German SS troops in Wereth, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge on 17 December 1944. Their names, rank, and the place they enlisted from are as follows; Private First Class Curtis Adams (South Carolina), Corporal Mager (also given as “Major”) Bradley (Sunflower County, Mississippi), Private First Class George Davis (Alabama),   Staff Sergeant Thomas J. Forte (enlisted from Mississippi, hometown Alexandria, Louisiana), Private First Class Robert Green (Georgia), Private First Class James Leatherwood (Pontotoc, Mississippi), Private First Class George W. Moten (Texas), Private First Class Nathaniel Moss (Texas), Technician 4th Class William Edward Pritchett, Jr. (Wilcox, Alabama), Technician 4th Class James Aubrey Stewart (Piedmont, West Virginia), and Private First Class Due W. Turner (Arkansas). While little is known about these men on an individual basis, most came from rural areas in the south; some, like William Pritchett, jr. (aged 22 at his death), were young men, while Thomas Forte (age 29) was a bit older.  The oldest man in the group was James Aubrey Stewart.  Known to his family and friends by his middle name, Aubrey Stewart was a paper mill worker, who volunteered for military duty at the age of thirty-six. Some of the men, like Adams, Davis, Forte, Leatherwood, and likely Bradley were married before their service overseas, while Pritchett, though unmarried, had a daughter. Whatever the backgrounds and the circumstances of enlistment for the men that became known as the Wereth Eleven, surviving photos of them in uniform make it clear that they were proud to be serving their country.

            Upon their joining the U.S. Army, between 1941 and 1943, the men of the Wereth Eleven were sent for boot camp training, probably at Fort Benning, Georgia. Following this, they were then assigned to the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, which was activated at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma (near the town of Braggs) in late 1942. This camp, with its large firing range, was a major base for training armored and artillery units. The 333rd was a segregated battalion that consisted of black enlisted men and junior officers, commanded by white senior officers and was just one of many such units that served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Because of the racism that pervaded the entire American military at this time period, black soldiers that wished to serve their country were assigned to a wide variety of service units in the army, including the field artillery, anti-aircraft battalions, port companies, transportation companies, and quartermaster companies, to name just a few. While these units were vitally important to the military effort during the war, they were not direct combat units and thus gained little of the publicity for their service and sacrifice. While black soldiers chafed at the bit and had a great desire to fight the enemy directly, the army was slow to accept their services in this capacity; only two units of black combat troops, the 92nd and 93rd divisions, were formed during the war, and like their service unit counterparts were segregated and commanded by white officers. Even these trained combat units were placed on hold and not put into service overseas until 1944, purely because of the old-fashioned notions that African American soldiers were not smart enough, or brave enough, to serve in combat alongside white soldiers. This way of thinking, as well as the resulting exclusion of a vast reservoir of available manpower during a time of great crisis, seems absurd today, but such was the thinking of the U.S. military establishment at the time. As for those black soldiers serving in service units like the 333rd Field Artillery, when they finally were sent for duty overseas, they usually were stationed well behind the front lines in areas already captured by combat troops. However, this does not mean that these areas were always completely secure, and oft-times service companies incurred combat casualties due to enemy air raids, long distance artillery fire, or when they were caught up in small pockets of resistance. In the case of the men of the 333rd, they were eventually ordered directly into combat and performed so well that they earned a Presidential Unit Citation, the army’s highest unit award. However, this outstanding performance came at a great cost, and eleven members of the 333rd would pay that cost in an excruciating manner that added yet another atrocity to the long list of Nazi war crimes.

            After several years of training and maneuvers at home, in early July 1944 the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion was finally sent overseas for duty. After landing in Normandy, France in the aftermath of the D-Day invasion, the men of the battalion saw continuous combat action through the summer and into the fall as Allied forces fought to break out of northern France. The 333rd was initially attached to the 2nd Infantry Division and saw its toughest action during the Battle for Brest, an important port in northern France. From 7 August to 19 September 1944 the prolonged battle was fought as German forces held firm while Allied artillery bombarded the city incessantly; among the artillery units that distinguished themselves during this siege was the 333rd, whose 155mm Howitzer guns helped to virtually destroy the city. In the aftermath of this action, the men of the 333rd were sent to Belgium and were re-assigned to the army’s VIII Corps.

It was in Belgium, during one of the coldest winters on record, that the men of the 333rd would take part in one of the epic battles of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge. This winter battle, which began on 16 December 1944, would turn out to be one of the German army’s last ditch efforts to derail the Allied drive toward Germany by dividing the American and British forces and driving toward the port of Antwerp, Belgium.  The action plan, devised by Hitler himself, utilized the most battle-hardened and loyal divisions of the Nazi army, including the 1st SS Division. Troops in these well-trained divisions, unlike the regular German army, were devout followers of Nazi ideology.  As for the men of the 333rd, they were originally positioned about eleven miles behind the front lines, but when the German forces advanced and the Allied positions began to crumble, they were sent to the front line near Schonberg, Belgium to aid the 106th Infantry Division; when the division was forced to withdraw in the face of the German attack, two batteries of the 333rd were sent to cover their retreat, C Battery and the Service Battery. These companies tried to help stem the German advance and killed many German SS troops before they too were overrun and forced to withdraw early on 17 December. Though there seems to be no documentation as to what the SS troops thought of the African American troops that blocked their advance, subsequent events lead to speculation that their reaction may have been a mixture of surprise, contempt, or even anger that these American soldiers of color, inferior to the Aryan race by SS doctrine, had bravely held off the most elite soldiers Germany had to offer before finally succumbing to superior numbers.

During the withdrawal of the 333rd’s C and Service batteries, a number of men were captured, while others were separated from their unit altogether. Amongst this group were the men that became known as the Wereth Eleven. What happened in the following hours and how the eleven men from the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion made their way to the small town of Wereth can only be speculated upon; whether the men made their escape together, or met up in smaller groups or singly is unknown; who were the leaders of this small band of men? Was it those who had the highest rank, Sergeant Thomas Forte, or the T-4s, William Pritchett or James Aubrey Stewart? Perhaps their leader was the “old man” in the group, Aubrey Stewart. Another important man was Private First Class Curtis Adams; though lower ranking, he was a trained medic whose first job would have been to care for his fellow soldiers. Whatever the circumstances, the eleven men made their way to Wereth by the afternoon of 17 December. Here they were fortunate to come to the farm of Mathias Langer and his family; though many in this part of Belgium were sympathetic to the German cause, the Langers were not. They provided shelter and shared a meal with the tired and hungry American soldiers. Unfortunately, the American soldiers were spotted by a neighbor who was sympathetic to the Germans and reported their presence to local German army units. Within an hour of their arrival at the Langer house, members of the 1st SS Reconnaissance Battalion, commanded by Major Gustav Knittel arrived on the scene and the eleven American troops peacefully surrendered. They were subsequently led to a pasture on the Langer farm, and were never seen alive again. After the Battle of the Bulge was over in January 1945, local civilians reported the presence of their bodies to American forces. When an army Graves Registration team reached the scene in February 1945, they were shocked by the scene of violence they found; the eleven soldiers, whose bodies had been preserved by a layer of snow, had been brutally tortured, beaten, and bayoneted before being shot to death. How long the torture lasted will never be known, but may have lasted for hours; medic Curtis Adams was killed while dressing the wounds of his fellow soldiers.

The massacre of the Wereth Eleven was not the only atrocity committed by German SS troops during the Battle of the Bulge; over one hundred Belgian civilians were murdered by various units, including Knittel’s 1st SS Reconnaissance Battalion, in several different towns and villages, while over 300 American troops were massacred in several different locales over the course of the battle. The best known of these massacres was the Malmedy massacre, where 84 American POWs were murdered; most of these men were shot down in cold blood, some at point blank range, while some were beaten. However, the murder of the Wereth Eleven was a different case altogether; why were they so brutally killed? Was it because of hard-fought resistance they had put up against SS troops just that morning…they would have been instantly recognizable because they were the only black troops to fight the SS during the battle, or was it because of their race, or was it a combination of both? As with so many of the circumstances surrounding the Wereth Eleven, we will never know the answer to this question. In the end, German SS commanders were brought to trial after the war’s end for the massacres in Belgium committed during the Battle of the Bulge. However, the massacre of the Wereth Eleven was the only incident not included among the list of criminal indictments for these men, even though there was more than enough evidence to support such a charge. Once again, it is unknown why the massacre at Wereth went uncharged and the incident was quickly forgotten. Sadly, even the inclusion of the massacre at Wereth would likely have not made a difference in the outcome of the war trials that were held; while a number of men, including Knittel, were convicted of war crimes and several were even sentenced to death, the sentences of all those SS men convicted were soon reduced, and all were out of prison by 1956.  There was little justice all around for the civilians and soldiers killed by German SS troops during the Battle of the Bulge.

After the bodies of the Wereth Eleven were processed, they were buried at the temporary Allied cemetery at Henri-Chapelle in Liege, Belgium. At war’s end, this cemetery became a permanent American military cemetery, but the families of the Wereth Eleven, as was customary with all soldiers whose remains were recovered, were given the option of having their loved ones returned home for burial. Seven of the Wereth Eleven, Stewart, Forte, Davis, Morten, Turner, Adams, and Moss, remain interred at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, while the bodies of the remaining four were returned home. Private Mager Bradley was interred at Fort Gibson National Cemetery, Oklahoma, Private Robert Green at Highland Park Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio, Private James Leatherwood at College Hill Cemetery, Pontotoc, Mississippi, and T-4 William Pritchett at McCastar Cemetery, Wilcox, Alabama. The circumstances of their deaths was unknown to their families, and would remain so until 1994; on the fiftieth anniversary of their deaths, a small memorial was erected in their honor on the Langer family farm in the pasture where they were killed by Matthias Langer’s son, Herman Langer. Gradually, information and the names of the Wereth Eleven became known in the United States, though on a limited basis. Langer’s memorial would be the only one of its kind for black soldiers serving in Europe during World War II and has remained so to this day. In 2004 increased publicity surrounding the Wereth Eleven led to the creation of a more substantial memorial that is now publicized by the Belgian government and marked by local road signs, but it was not until early 2011, with the release of a documentary movie that the Wereth Eleven became more widely known. Even today, surviving family members and descendants are still trying to obtain the medals, including the Purple Heart, that these soldiers earned.

 The Wereth Memorial is not just a tribute to the eleven African American soldiers that were murdered; it is also a clear and sobering reminder that black soldiers, too, were among America’s so-called Greatest Generation that fought and sometimes made the supreme sacrifice during World War II.

 

Further Reading

Child, Robert. The Wereth Eleven (movie), debuted on National Geographic Channel February 16, 2011

U.S. Wereth Memorial, http://www.wereth.org/_en/en_index.php

The author kindly acknowledges the assistance of T.J. Coleman, the director of the Aubrey Stewart Project (see http://www.theaubreystewartproject.com) in the preparation of this article.

 

Glenn Allen Knoblock