December 1944 saw American troops occupying the northern Italian mountain village of Sommocolonia as the endgame of World War II played itself out in Europe. Nevertheless, the Nazi German forces still had plenty of fight left, and they had decided to attack the lightly defended village. One U.S. Army officer, Lieutenant John Fox, stayed behind to face down the determined Nazi assault. And the soldier’s incredible bravery ultimately saw his fearsome foe defeated.
John Robert Fox, an African-American, was born in May 1915 in the Ohio city of Cincinnati. Enrolled at his home state’s Wilberforce University, Fox was a member of the institution’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. The young man graduated from Wilberforce at the age of 25, having attained the rank of second lieutenant in 1940. In addition, Fox had met his future wife, Arlene, at the university, and two years later the couple had a daughter, Sandra.
Subsequently, Fox went on to serve with the 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division, at a time when shameful racial segregation was the order of the day in the U.S. Army. The 92nd was a “colored” outfit, whose members were known at the time as the Buffalo Soldiers.