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Bring the Buffalo Soldiers Home

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The 92nd Infantry Division, also known as Buffalo Soldiers, was the only Black infantry division to see combat in Europe during WWII. They served as part of the U.S. Fifth Army in Italy’s Po Valley and the northern Apennine Mountains, where they helped penetrate the Gothic Line (Germany’s last major line of defense against Allied forces pushing north). The division paid a heavy price, losing an estimated 700 soldiers. To date, 50 soldiers from the 92nd remain unaccounted for, and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) would like to use DNA analysis from surviving family members to identify them. We’re teaming up with the DPAA to help spread the word and track down the families of these fallen soldiers. Let’s honor the sacrifices of the 92nd Infantry Division and help bring them home!

Soldiers from the 92nd Infantry Division

To positively identify the missing members of the 92nd, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) started the “92nd Infantry Project” in 2014. Of the 53 soldiers unidentified at the end of the war, 50 are still unaccounted for. One major obstacle that stands in the way of positive identification is family reference DNA samples.

The 92nd Infantry Division was a segregated division of primarily white officers and Black enlisted soldiers. They fought in WWI, and following the war, the division was deactivated. About 10 months after America entered WWII, the division was reactivated again. Soldiers received training at Fort Huachuca in Arizona before deploying to Italy in July 1944. They saw significant action against German troops with offensive campaigns in the Serchio River Valley and Massa. They participated in Operation Fourth Term in February 1945 and liberated the cities of La Spezia and Genoa in April.

Two soldiers from the 92nd received Medals of Honor, Vernon J. Baker, and John R. Fox. Vernon Baker served in the 380th Infantry Regiment and displayed extraordinary heroism at Castle Aghinolfi in the Apennine Mountains. The Castle was a German strongpoint and Baker and about 25 men were within 250 yards of the ancient fortress when Baker noticed two cylindrical objects pointing out of a slit in the mountain. He crawled up to them and stuck his M-1 rifle into the slit and fired, killing the occupants of the observation post. Next, he came upon a well-camouflaged machine-gun nest and killed both enemy soldiers. Baker’s heroics continued and he destroyed three machine-gun positions, an observation post, a dugout with enemy soldiers, and nine of the enemy. Initially, he was denied the Medal of Honor because the Army refused to award the honor to Black soldiers. Later, he became one of seven Black WWII soldiers that received the Medal of Honor when President Bill Clinton recognized their achievements in 1997.

92nd Infantry Division in the Po Valley

John R. Fox served with the Cannon Company of the 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division.  On December 25, 1944, enemy soldiers dressed in civilian clothes infiltrated the Italian town of Sommocolonia. Fox was serving as a forward observer with the 598th Artillery Battalion and stayed behind when the enemy unleashed a heavy barrage, forcing US troops to withdraw. He remained on the second floor of a house, directing defensive artillery fire. The enemy advanced towards the house as Fox called in adjustments. Realizing that another adjustment might bring fire down upon him, he went ahead and called for artillery fire. Later, after a counterattack, American troops retook the position and found Fox’s body along with the bodies of some 100 German soldiers. His courageous actions at the cost of his own life earned him a posthumous Medal of Honor, also awarded by President Clinton, in 1997.

Baker and Fox represent just two of the heroic soldiers from the 92nd. The DPAA hopes to honor the sacrifice of each unknown soldier from this division. There are currently 51 unknown soldiers buried in the Florence American Cemetery that may be associated with casualties from the 92nd Infantry Division. The Army Casualty Office would like to find family members of the 92nd to request a DNA sample. The task has proven challenging because many families relocated after the war, and surviving family members sometimes distrust the government. The wounds of racial discrimination run deep and are still healing. Identification of unaccounted soldiers can’t correct the injustice but does allow their families, and the country to honor their service and pay tribute to their sacrifice.

Officers examine maps near the Arno River

The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System (AFMES) is the agency charged with collecting the DNA samples. They operate under strict laws that prevent any misconduct, and results are kept in a secure AFMES database. The collected DNA samples are only used to identify fallen heroes.

If you are the family of someone unaccounted for from the 92nd Infantry Division, please contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490 to arrange to give a DNA sample. To learn more about the 92nd Infantry Regiment, search Fold3® today.

107 Comments

  1. Michael Snyder says:

    Yes. Bring them all home. They did their part. They should be buried here where their family and other Americans can honor them. They are ours and we are theirs.

    • Friends,
      I support this effort also. My 1st cousin William Brooks Mitchell from Chester, Pennsylvania was one of the Medics who was killed in Vietnam during his second commission in (1965) in the Danang Bloody Attack in the US Army. He was mentioned in the Mel Brooks film “We were Soldiers” and the book “Bloods” also. Fortunately he was brought back to Chester, Pennsylvania in a closed casket funeral because his body was mutilated. I have seven b rothers who served in the United States Military.
      1.Cpl. Thomas Lee Jackson
      2.Sgt. Lewis Jackson-US Air Force
      3.Cpl. Lucius Jackson-US Army
      4.Cpl. Antonio Pierre Jackson-US Air Force
      5.Cpl. Windfred (Christopher)Jackson-US Air Force
      6.Sgt. Eric Jackson, Sr.-United States Air Force
      7.Cpl. Floyd Jackson,Sr.-US Army

  2. I wanted to reply to Rick’s comment from March 27th. I believe he got it right. War does not see color it only sees soliders. So, these men and all men that are MIA’s deserve to be honored and brought home with dignity.

  3. Francine Goodman says:

    Harry Cox was a resident at the retirement home where i volunteer. He often spoke of the Buffalo Soldiers. He was a kind, humble man. The Obituary in the local paper listed him as part of the 92nd infantry. I wonder if he is in this picture.

  4. Mrs. Jeanette Marie Leidholt says:

    Bring them home, very touching story

  5. Billie Jo Poynter says:

    Please bring theses Soldiers Home!! No Soldier left behind!!

    Signed, Military Wife & a mother of two Soldiers

  6. Robert Parker says:

    I am very discussed at how many of the comments are not directly related to the purpose of the article. The article is not about all soldiers, it is about unidentified soldiers that served during WWII. Great effort has been made to identity other soldiers and now this effort is to identify the Buffalo soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division that served in Europe during WWII. It is not intended for other soldiers, so you that think the author is taking some thing away from other races are exposing yourself for what you are. Must every thing be about Whites? When ever Blacks seek help, some think it (or say) it is discrimination. We are not trying to take anything from you (you know who you are and so do I). Very little if anything can be done for Blacks without some one disagreeing. What is the problem? Are you so afraid we will take some thing from you. I don’t think so! There has to be some other reason. Great article and comments.

    • Must everything be about Blacks?

      “We are not trying to take anything from you (you know who you are and so do I).”

      Not so, look at the constant attacks on anything Confederate (names, statues, graves, heritage) these were Americans also and composed of all races that were in the US at that time.

    • tara v says:

      well said!

  7. Sheila Henderson says:

    Bring them all home!!! They’ve done their part. Acknowledgment and reward are due. These families need closure.

  8. Heather Miller says:

    I only wish my DNA might be useful, but none of my family served. This is why it is so essential that everyone be DNA tested. We never know how our data might serve others.

  9. Please send me a copy of this article to share with our local newspaper in Chester, Pennsylvania Delaware County Times.
    Dr. Andrew Jackson, Sr.
    460 Douglas Drive
    State College, Pa 16803
    814-574-9777
    [email protected]

  10. Christina Joslin says:

    I am all for bringing soldiers home. I am part of the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society. Home to many of ” THE BUFFALO SOLDIERS” of the late 1800’s. Any soldier, no matter what race, who gave their life to protect and defend our country more than deserves our support but our eternal gratitude. As do their families.

  11. No question, everything possible should be done to bring these heroes home!

  12. Gina Potts says:

    Absolutely! It is also about time we recognize all black World War II soldiers as the true, first pioneers of the American Civil Rights Movement.

  13. Jenny Ashcraft says:

    We sure appreciate all the offers to help track down descendants of the 92nd Infantry Division. Your offers to assist with genealogical research are humbling and inspiring. I reached out to the US Army Casualty Affairs Division. They informed me that they cannot accept volunteer genealogy work, as it is a violation of the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation. The best way we can support the mission to identify members of the 92nd Infantry Regiment is to publicize the project by sharing this post. Hopefully, the information can get into the right hands! Thank you again.

    • Sonia L Walker says:

      Where can we find a list of the unidentified soldiers? I can send this along with their names to African American genealogy groups. And if you can’t provide that list, then a list of the entire Division.

  14. Gee Johnson Hanson says:

    I recently learned when I started my ancestry journey that my dad was a Buffalo soldier in Italy.I knew he served in Italy but never knew the importance or that he was a Buffalo Soldier until I found a photo with the patch on his arm. I have a few photos of “him and the boys” in Italy and would love to find a platform where I could share the photos to try to identify the other men and their descendants.

    I am just now learning more about their role in the war.
    We need to identify these brave men.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Gee, you can create a Fold3 memorial and add your dad’s photos. Alternatively, you can send a high resolution digitized copy and I can add them to our user contributed collections. Please reach out to me at [email protected] if I can assist.

  15. Roberta says:

    Royal Bolling, Sr from Boston, Mass was a Buffalo Soldier. I think he was a Senator at Boston,Ma. Thank you for all the Buffalo soldiers and Rangers. Bring them all home

  16. Clayton B. Austin, Captain, USN (Retired) says:

    These Americans who “gave their last full measure” on behalf of their Country absolutely deserve to be properly identified and be “brought back home”. As a combat veteran myself, I fully support this effort, especially for these soldiers’ families.

  17. Jasmine Boda says:

    my biological father has been missing and I never even got to meet him. He was in Vietnam as a navy , I dont know if he was in this , but i continue my search with Hope’s of an answer. His name was Donald Maynard Babb, some called him donnie or don.

  18. Robert Parker says:

    No! Everything does not have to be about Blacks, but this is. Why do you have a problem with it?
    I was in the US Army (were you?). Any one that served knows that a soldier has no choice about what he is told (commanded) to do.

  19. Carol Sledge-Gerlach says:

    I have a small % of Nigerian DNA and my maiden name was SLEDGE. If this will help bring any of the soldiers home, I’m willing to contribute my DNA. Please contact me @ [email protected].

  20. Denise says:

    I am multi racial on my mother’s side, all white on my dad’s. My father is retired USAF, 2 yrs in Nam.
    We are all for trying to identify these heroic men who served their country even though a lot of people in this country hated them because of their epidermis hue.
    Buffalo Soldiers go back to the Civil War. Read about them! It’s sad that because of racism in this country that these men had to have their own regiment in our past wars. Now on this comments area, some people are still trying to denegrate their heroic efforts by claiming this project somehow is biased against whites. Geez people, geez, wtf… The confederate flag is nothing but a symbol of slavery and traitors. These men that so bravely served are our people. They were true to this country – unlike the confederate flag waiving traitors that keep crying about their whiteness. These men gave their lives for a country that spit on them. The very, very least we can do is try to indentify them so their families and this country can honor them.

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