Lt John Fox did something few people would have done in order to stop the Germans in Sommocolonia, Italy around Christmas in 1944: he called an artillery strike against himself and the 8 Italian fighters with him. Because he was Black, his heroism was almost unnoticed at the time.
Lt John Fox graduated from Wilberforce University as a 2nd lieutenant in 1940. He was assigned to the segregated 92nd Infantry Division (aka Buffalo Soldiers). He was transferred from the 598th Field Artillery Battalion to Cannon Company, 366th Infantry Regiment . The company was in Sommocolonia on Christmas when enemy forces crashed into the 92nd, forcing them to fall back away from the town.
Lt Fox volunteered to stay behind as an observer to call in defensive fire. He took position with 8 Italian freedom fighters on the second story of a house to watch as the Germans overran the town.
The Germans were in the open in the streets and attacking in strength, vastly outnumbering the small group of American soldiers. Lieutenant Fox radioed in to have the artillery fire adjusted closer to his position, then radioed again to have the shelling moved even closer. The soldier receiving the message was stunned since that would bring the deadly artillery fire right on top of Lieutenant Fox’s position; he would surely be killed.
When Fox was told this, he replied, “Fire it.”
‘That last round was just where I wanted it, the young lieutenant reported. “Bring it in 60 yards more.”
The receiving operator thought Fox was mistaken – the order would train the full fire of up to 75 heavy caliber artillery guns directly on Fox’s position.
Fox confirmed the order: “There’s more of them than there is of us.”
Seconds later the bombardment began. And within minutes, hundreds of shells had hit the target. Each one powerful enough to blast the house and its occupants into oblivion.war history
The actions of Lt John Fox caused the Germans to halt their movements through the town, and allowed the American forces time to regroup and launch a counterattack. Ultimately, they were able to free the town of Sommocolonia from the grasp of the Germans. When the American soldiers came upon the rubble of the house from which Lt John Fox had called in the strike, they found his body and that of the 8 Italians. They also found the bodies of a hundred Germans.
The grateful citizens of Sommocolonia erected a monument to Lt Fox, along with the 8 Italians who perished with him.
Fox was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in 1982. In the 1990s, the award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, along with 6 other members of the 92nd Infantry. The Medal of Honor was given to his family by President Clinton in 1997. The Hasbro toy company created a GI Joe Action Figure in 2005 to commemorate his MOH.
Featured photo: combination
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