Book Review: The Lost Eleven Shows The Cost Of War And Forgotten Black History

Synopsis: Nearly forgotten by history, this is the story of the Wereth Eleven, African-American soldiers who fought courageously for freedom in WWII—only to be ruthlessly executed by Nazi troops during the Battle of the Bulge. These brave African-American soldiers left their homes to join the Allied effort on the front lines of WWII. As members of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, they provided crucial fire support at the Siege of Bastogne. Among the few who managed to escape the Nazi’s devastating Ardennes Offensive, they found refuge in the small village of Wereth, Belgium. A farmer and supporter of the Allies took the exhausted and half-starved men into his home. When Nazi authorities learned of their whereabouts, they did not take the soldiers prisoner, but subjected them to torture and execution in a nearby field. Despite their bravery and sacrifice, these eleven soldiers were omitted from the final Congressional War Crimes report of 1949. For seventy years, their files—marked secret—gathered dust in the National Archive. But in 1994, at the site of their execution, a memorial was dedicated to the Wereth Eleven and all African-American soldiers who fought in Europe.

Drawing on firsthand interviews with family members and fellow soldiers, The Lost Eleven: The Forgotten Story of Black American Soldiers Brutally Massacred in World War II struck me, emotionally, for two reasons. First, authors Denise George and Robert Child have brought a whole new level of humanity to war stories. They paint a picture that finds glory not in the winning battle skills of these soldiers, but in the virtues they carried as they lost. The Lost Eleven comes off Shakespearean in that you know the 11 men you will meet, grow to love, and admire are star-crossed or bound to die.  Seeing the spirits of these men shows you why it is a tragedy that a wealth of black history is still hidden or undiscovered; these men and their hearts went beyond their black skin, but, for years, no one knew of their bravery because skin can still be treated as deeper than soul.

It is hard to put into words the magnificence of this book, and how you are embarking in an emotional rollercoaster. The Lost Eleven is a dense book not because it is 416 pages, but because you feel sentimentally pulled in so many directions. There are moments when you will want to hug these soldiers and the Belgian family that cared for them, especially then child Herman Langer, who placed a cross in loving memory for these soldiers who were used and forgotten by their own country.   Those moments will then lead to anger and sadness for these brave men, who sacrificed themselves to combat prejudice/oppression in another country, all while facing the atrocious subjugation their country had placed upon them. George and Child do well to show the paradox of these black mens’ ironic predicament. Fighting a war on behalf of a country saying to Hitler he was wrong to diminish and kill life as if it were less than human, while, back at home, it was doing the same. George and Author are balanced enough as writers to assure this hypocrisy, though different in degree, is still felt for its source: cruelty. It is cruel to see someone as less than you, and that cruelty leads to another sentiment for readers that is hard and unexpected: fear.

This book was scary for many reasons, beyond the fact that is based in the reality of war. For instance, it is terrifying to see the memory of courageous, honorable men be so easily wiped away. I say terrifying because legacy is a big deal for people while alive. Part of human motivation for living life and why these men enlisted is based in wanting to be remembered, but, because of their skin, their virtue was deemed unworthy for memory. Moreover, the current political sphere of America, ups the felt tension of these men as minorities trying to love a country that did not associate them as being of love; both in giving and receiving. Yet, hope for humanity comes forth through the Langer family, who feel like a fountain of compassion, equality, and respect. The Lost Eleven builds an inhumane world that seems too lost in its wickedness to treasure the beauty of not only admirable soldiers but a good family. Thus, the Langers and Wereth Eleven are cherished even more by readers who will, at times, feel like these were the only good people left on earth during WWII. Therefore, making the Wereth Eleven’s tragic, torturous end in a quiet, dirty field in Belgium feel beneath such lives that were lived with grace despite suffering.

This Review Is In Loving Memory And Gratitude To The Wereth Eleven:
Tech Sergeant William Edward Pritchett-       Alabama
Tech Sergeant James Aubrey Stewart-            West Virginia
Staff Sergeant Thomas J. Forte-                      Louisiana
Corporal Mager Bradley-                                Mississippi
Private First Class George Davis-                   Alabama
Private First Class James Leatherwood-         Mississippi
Private Class George W. Moten-                    Texas
Private First Class Due W. Turner-                Arkansas
Private Curtis Adams-                                    South Carolina
Private Robert Green-                                    Georgia
Private Nathaniel Moss-                                 Texas

You were lost in war, but remembered in history. Now rest in peace.

The Lost Eleven: The Forgotten Story of Black American Soldiers Brutally Massacred in World War II by Denise George And Robert Child is a Penguin Randomhouse Release Click Here To Buy.

The tale of 11 black  soldiers in WWI