In the early 1990s it was determined that African-American soldiers were denied consideration for the Medal of Honor solely due to their race. After a review, seven African-American soldiers had their Medals upgraded in January, 1997 to the Medal of Honor; First Lieutenant Fox was one of the seven.
Military serviceThe 92nd Infantry Division (colored), known as the Buffalo Soldiers, was a segregated African American division that fought in World War II. First Lieutenant John R. Fox was of the 366th Infantry Regiment when he made the ultimate sacrifice in order to defeat the enemy and save the lives of his fellow soldiers. In December 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. American forces had been forced to withdraw from the village after it had been overrun by the enemy. From his position on the second floor of a house, Fox directed defensive artillery fire.
The enemy was in the streets and attacking in strength, greatly outnumbering the small group of American soldiers. 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, for that would bring the deadly fire right on top of Fox’s position; there was no way he would survive. When Fox was told this, he replied, “Fire it.” This shelling delayed the enemy advance until other units could reorganize to repel the attack.
His action permitted U.S. forces, who had been forced to withdraw, to organize a counterattack and regain control of the village. After the units had retaken the village, they found Fox’s body along with the bodies of about one hundred enemy soldiers.
HonorsAfter 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."
Medal of Honor citationFor his "gallant and courageous actions, at the supreme sacrifice of his own life," Fox was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His widow, the former Arlene Marrow of Brockton, Massachusetts, received his medal from President Bill Clinton in a White House ceremony on January 13, 1997. On that day, Clinton also awarded the medal to six other previously neglected African American World War II veterans, including Vernon Baker, who was the only one living when awarded.
For extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Sommocolonia, Italy on 26 December 1944, while serving as a member of Cannon Company, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92d Infantry Division. During the preceding few weeks, Lieutenant Fox served with the 598th Field Artillery Battalion as a forward observer. On Christmas night, enemy soldiers gradually infiltrated the town of Sommocolonia in civilian clothes, and by early morning the town was largely in hostile hands. Commencing with a heavy barrage of enemy artillery at 0400 hours on 26 December 1944, an organized attack by uniformed German units began. Being greatly outnumbered, most of the United States Infantry forces were forced to withdraw from the town, but Lieutenant Fox and some other members of his observer party voluntarily remained on the second floor of a house to direct defensive artillery fire. At 0800 hours, Lieutenant Fox reported that the Germans were in the streets and attacking in strength. He then called for defensive artillery fire to slow the enemy advance. As the Germans continued to press the attack towards the area that Lieutenant Fox occupied, he adjusted the artillery fire closer to his position. Finally he was warned that the next adjustment would bring the deadly artillery right on top of his position. After acknowledging the danger, Lieutenant Fox insisted that the last adjustment be fired as this was the only way to defeat the attacking soldiers. Later, when a counterattack retook the position from the Germans, Lieutenant Fox's body was found with the bodies of approximately 100 German soldiers. Lieutenant Fox's gallant and courageous actions, at the supreme sacrifice of his own life, contributed greatly to delaying the enemy advance until other infantry and artillery units could reorganize to repel the attack. His extraordinary valorous actions were in keeping with the most cherished traditions of military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army