Red Legs Of The Bulge
The 333rd Field Artillery Battalion
The 333rd Field Artillery Battalion (155mm), like most African-American artillery battalions, was a non-divisional unit under the command of its Army Corps, in this case, VIII Corps. Its Group, also called the 333rd, had various times, both white and black units. Situated along the Andler-Schonberg Road, the Battalion had been in position since early October. After the departure of the 2nd Division, it was nominally attached to the 106th as supplemental fire support. Two observation teams were posted in and around the German village of Bleialf.
The Battalion had something many of their neighboring units did not have: combat experience. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Harmon Kelsey, a white officer, the Battalion had been in the field since late June ’44, landing at Utah Beach. It fired its first shots just hours after arriving. Eventually, it ended up supporting the 2nd Infantry Division as it moved into the Ardennes in the early fall. Its main gun was the standard
towed 155mm howitzer, and it had the standard table of organization, very similar to a divisional heavy battalion. Despite the segregation of the era, some of its junior officers were black. The Battalion had an impressive record, once firing 1500 rounds in a 24 hour period and actually capturing a village in France. And for once, a black unit received some recognition. Yank Magazine ran an article devoted entirely to the Battalion in the fall of 1944.
Like so many other units in the opening round of the Bulge, missed opportunities and tragedy would befall them. But the remaining men would rally, and contribute mightly to the defense of Bastogne. They would have suffer the second highest casualty rate of any artillery unit in the perimeter.
Eleven men from C Battery and Service Battery, who had escaped the Germans' trap at Schonberg, were finally captured on the night of the 17th. They surrendered peacefully, but their captors had other ideas. They were murdered by the SS just outside the village of Wereth. The victims became known as The Wereth 11. After the war, their exploits were forgotten and would have remained so if not for a few dedicated individuals both in the U.S. and in Belgium. The descendants of the Belgians who sheltered the men and Dr. Norman Lichtenfeld , whose dad served in the 106th, campaigned for their recognition. After years of fundraising and hard work, a memorial was dedicated to the men at Wereth. Dr. Lichtenfeld is currently writing a book on the 333rd.