By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian
High school students learned about an unsung hero from West Virginia on Wednesday.
The Aubrey Stewart Project (TASP) held a presentation at East Fairmont High School for students teaching them about James Aubrey Stewart and how he was a part of the Wereth 11 during World Ward II that gave their lives to save a Belgium family.
T.J. Coleman, founder and president of TASP, said the project visited EFHS last year and in the last few weeks has been to Fairmont Senior High School and West Fairmont Middle School.
“The city of Fairmont has embraced TASP and Mr. Aubrey more than any city in the state,” Colman said.
During the presentation, students were informed of who Stewart was as a person and the story about the Wereth 11.
“Mr. Stewart was from our hometown of Piedmont, W.Va.,” Coleman said.
Stewart was working for Westvaco Paper Mill when WWII broke out. He was 36 years old, too old to be drafted, so he volunteered to fight for his country.
“Imagine going into basic training with soldiers half your age,” Coleman said. “He would become a member of a unit of black soldiers who were like the Tuskegee Airmen but who were on the ground.”
The unit would be the first to see the German SS during the Battle of the Bulge. They would fight until they ran out of ammunition, and 11 black soldiers would escape to the small town of Wereth, Belgium where the Langer family took them in.
“Unfortunately, a lady told an SS unit that they were in the town,” Coleman said. “Having American soldiers in a Belgium household, they weren’t only going to kill the American soldiers but also the Belgium family.”
Instead of fighting, the soldiers surrendered, saving the Langer family, that housed them, from being killed. However, in this case the soldiers were black, and Hitler hated blacks just as much as he hated the Jewish.