December 17, 1944 — Wereth, Belgium
PFC Jimmie Lee Leatherwood (Army SN 34481753) was a member of the all-black 333rd Field Artillery Battalion(Heavy) when he was killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge. The 333 FA Battalion was over-run by the heavily armored German forces. The 333FA suffered heavy casualties on December 17, 1944. Eleven(11) men of this unit are still buried at two American cemeteries in Belgium.
A war attrocity was associated with this battle and unit. Eleven(11) of the men of the 333 FA Battalion were captured. The Nazi-SS took the men to Wereth, Belgium, where they brutally tortured them and killed them on 17 December 1944. Their bodies laid buried in the snow until February. Seven of these men are still buried in Belgium. PFC Leatherwood and three others were returned to the US after the war. This incident is referred to as the "Wereth 11".
PFC Jmmie Lee Leatherwood of Pontotoc, Mississippi, was one of these 11 murderd soldiers. The Germans that killed them where part of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division. This unit was also responsible for the execution of 90 US soldiers at Malmedy and more than 140 civilians at the town of Savalot, Belgium. After the war, the commanders and men of this unit were put on trail that was known as the Malmedy Massacre trial. Many received life sentences and the Colonel received the death penalty but by mid-1950's all were released from prison.
An article in the Pontotoc Progress newspaper dated Nov 20, 1947, under the headline "Final Burial for 2 County War Dead" describes the homecoming of PFC Jim L. Leatherwood. His body was brought home from the Henri Chapelle Cemetery, Belgium, where most of the "Wereth 11" were buried during the war. His body was escorted from the Memphis Depot and delivered to his mother Juday Sanders. He was buried on the previous Sunday at Pontotoc's College Hill Cemetery. There is no record that a permanent headstone was ever ordered. I believe the temporary marker of his grave has been lost.
I have found his daughter and grandson. I met his daughter at the College Hill Cemetery in Pontotoc, MS, and she tried to locate his burial plot. After talking to her, I think we know approximately where he is buried within 15 feet. The town historical group is working on a historical marker to be placed at the cemetery in honor of PFC Jimmie Leatherwood.