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Film to tell story of massacre of captured U.S. soldiers in WWII

July 11, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Actors in a World War II movie leave their vehicle after a morning of filming Sunday in the woods of Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

BIG POOL -- Some had bayonets thrust into their eyes while they were still alive and others had their skulls shattered, according to Joseph Small, an executive film producer working on a film about an ill-fated group of soldiers.

Another soldier had his fingers cut off while he was still alive and all 11 soldiers in the group were shot, according to Small and historical accounts of the group known as the Wereth 11.

The Wereth 11 refers to 11 black American soldiers who were killed when their unit was overrun by Germans at the start of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

Some had already been wounded, but that did not stop Nazi troops from marching them into a field in a severe blizzard and shooting them in cold blood on Dec. 17, 1944, according to an online account of the incident titled "George Duncan's Massacres and Atrocities of World War II."

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Now the story is unfolding again in a television production about the killings being filmed at Fort Frederick State Park.

Small spent 25 years working in the defense industry and is a history buff, spending 30 years researching World War II.

The Long Island, N.Y., resident said he took a World War II tour across Europe and among the stops was the small Belgium hamlet of Wereth, the site of the killings where Small found a memorial to the men.

"I'd never heard of this story," he said.

The killings are among the least-understood and most unknown war crimes that occurred in World War II, according to local people involved in the project.

Among the groups involved in the production of the film is Historical Entertainment LLC of Cascade.

Russell Richards, owner and chief executive officer of Historical Entertainment, said Fort Frederick Park was picked for the filming because parts of the park resemble Belgium, where World War II conflicts raged.

Four days of filming are under way at Fort Frederick State Park, where scenes were being filmed Sunday.

The massacre scene is to be filmed today and the camera work at the park will wrap up Tuesday, project officials said.

The film is scheduled to be shown by the Public Broadcasting Service in February as part of Black History Month, Richards said.

Although winter is long gone in the area, film workers were transforming the scene Sunday with a machine that blew finely shredded paper into the woods at the park. The material stuck to trees, creating a winterlike atmosphere.

About 80 people were working on the set Sunday. The people who have been staying at local motels and using local services have been a "nice little economic impact," said Thomas B. Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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