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John Robert Fox (May 18, 1915 – December 26, 1944) was a United States Army first lieutenant who was killed in action after calling in artillery fire on the enemy during World War II. In 1997, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration for valor, for his actions on December 26, 1944, in the vicinity of Sommocolonia, Italy.[1]

John Robert Fox
John Fox posthumously received the Medal of Honor in 1997 for actions during World War II
Born(1915-05-18)May 18, 1915
Cincinnati, Ohio
DiedDecember 26, 1944(1944-12-26) (aged 29)
KIA in Sommocolonia, Italy
Place of burial
Colebrook Cemetery, Whitman, Massachusetts
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1940–1944
RankUS-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant
Unit598th Field Artillery Battalion, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsMedal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart

Fox and six other Black Americans who served in World War II were awarded the Medal of Honor on January 12, 1997. The Medal of Honor was posthumously presented to Fox by President Bill Clinton on January 13, 1997 during a Medals of Honor ceremony for the seven recipients at the White House in Washington, D.C. The seven recipients are the first and only Black Americans to be awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II.[2][3]


Fox was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 18, 1915, the eldest of three children. He was raised in Wyoming, Ohio,[4] and attended Ohio State University. He transferred to Wilberforce University, participating in ROTC under Captain Aaron R. Fisher, a highly decorated World War I veteran. Fox graduated with a degree in engineering and received a commission as a U.S. Army second lieutenant in 1941.

Military serviceEdit

Fox was 29 years old when he called artillery fire on his own position the day after Christmas in 1944. In 1982, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his heroic actions that day. More than 50 years after his death, Fox's DSC was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He is buried in Colebrook Cemetery in Whitman, Massachusetts.

The 92nd Infantry Division (colored), known as the Buffalo Soldiers, was a segregated African-American division that fought in World War II. Lt. Fox was a forward observer of the 598th Artillery Battalion, 366th Infantry Regiment of the division when he sacrificed his life to defeat an enemy attack and save the lives of others.[5] On December 26, 1944, Fox was part of a small forward observer party that volunteered to stay behind in the Italian village of Sommocolonia, in the Serchio River Valley.[6] American forces had been forced to withdraw from the village after it had been overrun by the Germans. From his position on the second floor of a house, Fox directed defensive artillery fire. Wehrmacht soldiers were attacking in strength, greatly outnumbering the handful of Americans. Fox radioed the artillery to bring its fire closer to his position. As the attack continued, he ordered the fire directed onto his own position. The soldier who received the message was stunned, as there was little chance that Fox would survive it. Fox simply replied, "Fire it."[7][8] Fox's sacrifice gained time for the U.S. forces to organize a counterattack and retake the village. He was posthumously awarded the DSC on April 15, 1982 (award recommendation was lost).

Medal of HonorEdit

In the early 1990s, it was determined that Black soldiers had been denied consideration for the Medal of Honor (MOH) in World War II because of their race. In 1993, the U.S. Army had contracted Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, to research and determine if there was racial disparity in the review process for recipients of the MOH. The study commissioned by the U.S. Army, described systematic racial discrimination in the criteria for awarding decorations during World War II. After an exhaustive review of files, the study recommended in 1996 that ten Black Americans who served in World War II be awarded the MOH. In October of that year, Congress passed legislation that would allow President Clinton to award the Medal of Honor to these former soldiers. Seven of the ten including Lt. Fox were approved, and awarded the MOH (six had Distinguished Service Crosses revoked and upgraded to MOH) on January 12, 1997.[9] On January 13, 1997, President Clinton presented the MOH to the seven Black Americans; Lt. Fox and five others were posthumously presented the MOH.[10][11] Lt. Fox's widow accepted the MOH on his behalf during the ceremony.[12] Vernon Baker was the only living recipient of the medal at the time.[13][14]

Other honorsEdit

After the war, the citizens of Sommocolonia, Italy erected a monument to nine men who were killed during the artillery barrage – eight Italian soldiers and Lieutenant Fox.

In 2005, the toy company Hasbro introduced a 12-inch action figure "commemorating Lt. John R. Fox as part of its G.I. Joe Medal-of-Honor series."[15]

On July 16, 2000 the Italian village of Sommocolonia dedicated a peace park in memory of Fox and his unit.[7]

American Legion Post 631 is named after him in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Military awardsEdit

Medal of Honor citationEdit

Fox's Medal of Honor citation reads:[16]

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor posthumously to

First Lieutenant John R. Fox
United States Army


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: First Lieutenant John R. Fox distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism at the risk of his own life on 26 December 1944 in the Serchio River Valley Sector, in vicinity of Sommocolonia, Italy. Lieutenant Fox was a member of Cannon Company, 366th Infantry, 92nd Infantry Division, acting as a forward observer, while attached to the 598th Field Artillery Battalion. Christmas Day in the Serchio Valley was spent in positions which had been occupied for some weeks. During Christmas night, there was a gradual influx of enemy soldiers in civilian clothes and by early morning the town was largely in enemy hands. An organized attack by uniformed German formations was launched around 0400 hours, 26 December 1944. Reports were received that the area was being heavily shelled by everything the Germans had, and although most of the U.S. infantry forces withdrew from the town, Lieutenant Fox and members of his observation party remained behind on the second floor of a house, directing defensive fires. Lieutenant Fox reported at 0800 hours that the Germans were in the streets and attacking in strength, He called for artillery fire increasingly close to his own position. He told his battalion commander, "That was just where I wanted it. Bring it 60 yards! His commander protested that there was a heavy barrage in the area and bombardment would be too close. Lieutenant Fox gave his adjustment, requesting that the barrage be fired. The distance was cut in half. The Germans continued to press forward in large numbers, surrounding the position. Lieutenant Fox again called for artillery fire with the commander protesting again stating, "Fox, that will be on you!" The last communication from Lieutenant Fox was. "Fire it! There's more of them than there are of us. Give them hell!" The bodies of Lieutenant Fox and his party were found in the vicinity of his position when his position was taken. This action, by Lieutenant Fox, at the cost of his own life, inflicted heavy casualties, causing deaths of approximately 100 Germans, thereby delaying the advance of the enemy until infantry and artillery units could be reorganized to meet the attack. Lieutenant Fox's extraordinary valorous actions exemplify the highest traditions of the military service.

/S/ Bill Clinton

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Fox, John. Citation". Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  2. ^ William, Rudi, American Forces Press Service. "Seven Black World War II Heroes Receive Medals of Honor". DoD News. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  3. ^ Elliott V. Converse III (1997). The Exclusion of Black Soldiers from the Medal of Honor in World War II. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-0277-6.
  4. ^ "John R. Fox". Biography in context. Contemporary black biography. 2013 – via Gale Group.
  5. ^ "Fox, John. Citation". Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  6. ^ Frank Viviano. "Sommocolonia, Barga, Italy".
  7. ^ a b "Almost-Forgotten Heroes / Italian town honors black GIs who were shunned by their own country". SFGate. 2000-07-13. Retrieved 2018-10-26.
  8. ^ "Fox, John. Citation". Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  9. ^ "War Heroes- First Lieutenant John Robert Fox". Retrieved 2018-10-26.
  10. ^ William, Rudi, American Forces Press Service. "Seven Black World War II Heroes Receive Medals of Honor". DoD News. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  11. ^ Jim Garamone (January 15, 1997). "Army Finally Recognizes WWII Black Heroes". DefenseLINK News. Archived from the original on March 19, 2007.
  12. ^ William, Rudi, American Forces Press Service. "Seven Black World War II Heroes Receive Medals of Honor". DoD News. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  13. ^ William, Rudi, American Forces Press Service. "Seven Black World War II Heroes Receive Medals of Honor". DoD News. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  14. ^ Joseph L. Galloway, Debt of Honor, U.S. News & World Report, May 6, 1996. ISSN 0041-5537
  15. ^ Farai Chideya (March 3, 2005). "Hasbro Offers "Buffalo Soldier" GI Joe Action Figure". National Public Radio.
  16. ^ "Fox, John. Citation". Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. Retrieved April 2, 2019.

External linksEdit