T.J. Coleman, president of the Aubrey Stewart Project, will present the untold story of “The Wereth Eleven” soldiers on Monday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Atkinson Room of the Lane University Center. This presentation will focus on Piedmont, W.Va., native, Aubrey Stewart, one of the 11 black U.S. soldiers who were executed by German troops during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. The presentation is free and open to the public.
Stewart was 36, too old to be drafted, when he left his job at the Westvaco Paper Mill and volunteered to fight in World War II. He would become a part of The Wereth Eleven: 11 black soldiers from the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, a black unit in the segregated U.S. Army, who were separated from their unit during that crucial battle.
Stewart and the other soldiers hiked for miles in the snow with no food, trying to rejoin American troops before coming upon the tiny town of Wereth, Belgium. They were welcomed in to the home of Mathias Langer and his family, who were risking their own lives by doing so. For a brief time, the soldiers were warm and comfortable in Langer’s home. Soon, however, a woman sympathetic to the Germans informed the SS that the men were in town. The soldiers were executed by German soldiers, and their bodies were left in the snow for more than two months.
Years later, a wooden cross from the Langer family cemetery was placed on the site of the massacre to honor the 11 victims. The townspeople of Wereth continued to raise money to honor the soldiers, and today, a permanent memorial stands inscribed with the names of all 11 soldiers.
The Aubrey Stewart Project was formed by Coleman as a way to publicize the often-forgotten story of Stewart and The Wereth Eleven. Unifying all races is one of Coleman’s primary goals for the project. Coleman also hopes the project will encourage today’s youth to dream and to leave an impact on society. The mottos of the Aubrey Stewart Project are, “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty,” “The Ultimate Sacrifice” and “Excellence Above All Things.”
For more information on this presentation, contact the FSU Diversity Center at 301-687-4050. A documentary on The Wereth Eleven will also be aired on The National Geographic Channel on Wednesday, Feb. 16, at 9 p.m.
FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.