The Battle of the Bulge memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia
Wikimedia Commons

In a story that sheds light on the contribution of black Americans during World War II, historians are beginning to disentangle the mystery of what happened to 11 black soldiers in Wereth, Belgium, during the historic Battle of the Bulge, according to USA Today.

The story likely would have remained buried at the National Archives if not for the efforts of a Belgian man who was 12 years old when he saw the men marched out the Belgian village by a handful of SS soldiers, USA Today reports.

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Now, nearly 70 years later, the man and a series of historians, relatives of the soldiers and military officers have worked to determine what happened. The families of the slain soldiers received letters saying their husband or son was killed in combat. But the new findings raise questions about war crimes and racism.

"On 15 February 1945, I personally examined the bodies of the American Negro soldiers listed below," Army Capt. William Everett wrote, according to USA Today. "In a single-spaced, one-page memo, the assistant regimental surgeon chronicled their wounds. Most had been killed by blows to the head with a blunt instrument, probably a rifle stock. They had been stabbed repeatedly with bayonets. The finger of one man was almost completely severed. The soldiers had been shot multiple times."

Read more at USA Today.