333rd Field Artillery Battalion (United States)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Memorial to the Wereth 11

The 333rd Field Artillery Battalion was an African-American unit of the then racially segregated United States Army during World War II. The battalion landed at Normandy at the beginning of July 1944 and saw continuous combat as corps artillery throughout the summer. Beginning in October 1944 it was located in Schoenberg, Belgium as part of the U.S. VIII Corps Artillery. Partially overrun by the Germans on 17 December 1944, the remnants of the 333rd FA Battalion were withdrawn to the west, where the men fought in the Siege of Bastogne. Service and C Batteries suffered heavy casualties, and eleven men of the 333rd were massacred near the Belgian hamlet of Wereth. After the war, the battalion was inactivated and reactivated during various Army reorganizations.

Unit formation and history[edit]

Organized as the 333rd Field Artillery (FA) Regiment on 5 August 1917 and subordinated to the 161st Field Artillery Brigade, 86th Infantry Division. The regiment subsequently served in France during World War I, but did not see action. The regiment was demobilized in January 1919 at Camp Grant, Illinois.

The regiment was part of the Organized Reserves in Chicago from 1930 through 1937, at which time it was inactivated until World War II.[1]

On 5 August 1942, the 333rd FA Regiment was activated at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. As part of an army-wide artillery reorganization, the 1st Battalion was retitled the 333rd FA Battalion and the 2nd Battalion became the 969th FA Battalion. Regimental Headquarters became Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 333rd FA Group[2] on 12 February 1943. The group subsequently served in Normandy, Brittany, participated in the siege of Brest and battled across Northern France before arriving in the Ardennes sector as part of the corps artillery of the U.S. VIII Corps.

Ardennes Offensive[edit]

Honor guard for the Wereth 11 in 2007.

The 333rd FA Group (333rd {155mm}, 969th {155mm} and 771st {4.5-inch} FA Battalions) initially supported the 2nd Infantry Division (United States) and its replacement, the 106th Infantry Division. At the onset of the Battle of the Bulge they were eleven miles behind the front lines. With the rapid advance of the Germans, the 333rd FA Battalion was ordered to withdraw further west, but C and Service Batteries were ordered to stay behind to give covering fire to the 106th Division. On 17 December they were overrun with most killed or captured.

Wereth 11 Massacre[edit]

Eleven of its soldiers became separated from the unit after it was overrun early on the second day of the battle. In an effort to reach American lines they made their way to the hamlet of Wereth, Belgium, where a farmer, Mathias Langer, sheltered them.[3] However, later that day, a Nazi sympathizer revealed their presence to members of the 1st SS Division. They surrendered, but were taken to a field, where they were tortured, maimed, and shot on 17 December 1944. Their remains were found by Allied soldiers two months later, after the Allies re-took the area. The soldiers had their fingers cut off, legs broken, and at least one was shot while trying to bandage a comrade's wounds.[4]

A memorial stands (since 1994) on the site of their murders, dedicated to the 11 (Wereth 11) and all African-American soldiers who fought in the European theatre. It is believed to be the only memorial to African-American soldiers of World War II in Europe.[5]

The remnants of the 333rd FAB 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.

The 333rd Field Artillery Battalion suffered more casualties during the Battle of the Bulge than any other artillery unit in the VIII Corps. Six officers (including the commanding officer) and 222 enlisted men became either casualties or prisoners of war.

The 333rd FA Group subsequently served in the Central Europe campaign until the end of the war, while the 333rd FA Battalion subsequently served in the Rhineland Campaign.

Names of the Wereth 11[edit]

The victims were:

Staff Sergeant Thomas J. Forte, Service # 34036992, buried at Henri-Chapelle Plot C Row 11 Grave 55 awards: Purple Heart
Technician fourth grade (T/4) William Edward Pritchett of Alabama
Technician fourth grade (T/4) James A. Stewart of West Virginia, Service number 35744547 buried at Henri-Chapelle Plot C Row 11 Grave 2 awards: Purple Heart
Corporal Mager Bradley of Mississippi
Private First Class George Davis of Alabama, Service # 34553436 buried at Henri-Chapelle Plot D Row 10 Grave 61 awards: Purple Heart
Private First Class James L. Leatherwood of Pontotoc, Mississippi
Private First Class George W. Moten of Texas, Service # 38304695 buried at Henri-Chapelle Plot E Row 10 Grave 29 awards: Purple Heart
Private First Class Due W. Turner of Arkansas, Service # 38383369 buried at Henri-Chapelle Plot F Row 5 Grave 9 awards: Purple Heart
Private Curtis Adams of South Carolina, Service # 34511454 buried at Henri-Chapelle Plot C Row 11 Grave 41 awards: Purple Heart
Private Robert Green
Private Nathanial Moss of Texas, Service # 38040062 buried at Henri-Chapelle Plot F Row 10 Grave 8 awards: Purple Heart

Curtis Adams was a medic. Thomas J. Forte was a mess sergeant.

Post World War II[edit]

The 333rd FA Battalion was inactivated 10 June 1945 in Germany, while the 333rd FA Group was inactivated at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia on 30 December 1945.[6] Both the 333rd and 969th FA Battalions were later reactivated, although further reorganizations ensued, with the 333rd FA Battalion renumbered as the 446th FA Battalion. On 1 July 1959 the 333rd FA Group was reactivated as the 333rd Artillery Regiment with the 446th and 969th FA Battalions subordinated to it. On 1 September 1971, the regiment was retitled the 333rd Field Artillery Regiment. Four target acquisition batteries of the 333rd Field Artillery served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.[7] Today, there is only one target acquisition battery in the Army which still bear the number of the 333rd Field Artillery.

Memorials[edit]

In May 2004, a memorial was dedicated to the Wereth 11 on Matthias Langer's land.

In 2006, veterans with the Worcester, Massachusetts chapter of Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge dedicated what is presumed to be the first memorial to the Wereth 11 on U.S. soil. It was dedicated at the Winchendon Veterans' Memorial Cemetery on 20 August.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Steven E. Clay, U.S. Army Order of Battle 1919 - 1941, Volume 2, p. 860. Fort Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2010.
  2. ^ tmg110.tripod.com
  3. ^ Jim Michaels (November 8, 2013) Emerging from history: Massacre of 11 black soldiers. USA Today. Retrieved July 17, 2014
  4. ^ "History: Remembering the invincible soldiers of the Battle of the Bulge". U.S. Wereth Memorial. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  5. ^ U.S. Memorial Wereth. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  6. ^ Shelby Stanton, World War II Order of Battle, New York: Galahad Books, 1991
  7. ^ desertstorm1991.com

External links[edit]