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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. Bring all MIAs home regardless of race.

  2. Stephen Yemm says:

    This story would make a great movie, something on the order of the movie Glory or The Tuskegee Airmen. More Americans need to know about these events and it might help in the search for relatives. People of color will save America yet.

    • EDDIE IRBY JR says:

      as president of the 92nd chapter in Al..I agree 100%. My uncle was with Lt. Baker and I have his History on Tape,and it was not pretty, I am having a very hard time trying to save not only their History but that of other 92nd.93rd.and the 370 Battery attached to the 92nd that could take out Germen Tanks 9 miles away! I have been trying to reach out to other Blacks all over the Country to no avail, EDDIE IRBY JR. – PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF THE 92ND INFANTRY DIVISION BUFFALO SOLDIERS ASSOCIATION WW II 251-591-3057

    • Karen Thomas says:

      My sentiments exactly.

  3. Nancy Hughes says:

    I am ashamed of our country’ s government and citizens that these policies existed!

    • Rick says:

      I am ashamed people as yourself place shame, racism or policy on these situations. Currently, there are still 82,000 American servicemen’s bodies missing from ww2, Korea and Vietnam. Of them, 92% are white. Its not like the bodies were not brought home because they are black…it is because their graves are lost in the fog of war. War is a Shiite job, with so much confusion. Shame on you, your small mind and racist thinking along with every other acehole here with same thought train…just because someone said, Black! Freakin idiots. They are less because you make them less…to men who served with them, beside them or gained the benefit of life from their efforts and lives, they are immortal hero’s. As is every soldier. The whole idea of this post is just to recognize them, recognize the graves now found and to identify each and every man for his family. If you find shame in that, then you need to GTFOH!

    • Don K says:

      Well, Nancy. Those days are over. What was done was wrong but it has been MORE than corrected in the present. If you are so ashamed, try Mexico or Canada.

  4. Margaret Arwood says:

    It grieves me that race/skin color would deny anyone from being recognized as a Hero!

    We need to make sure that everyone that went over the line of duty be recognized. I hope you find their families. Everyone should be proud of these hero’s.

  5. Judy Lemay says:

    The Buffalo Soldiers were stationed at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester, VT at one time. Get the information out in Vermont.

  6. HonorourSoldiers says:

    It Happened, that unfortunately cannot be changed. Don’t be ashamed, be proud of them and honor their fortitude and the legacy of their sacrifices and the many others like them!

    • Honor Soldiers Why would we be ashamed? segregation shouldn’t have been especially at a time of war, my father upon arrival back to the United States after 3 almost 4 Years was victimized by whites who ridiculed him for being in a US Army uniform that was gleaming with battle ribbons and medals, he was forced to take it off and pawn them before being allowed to board a train home to Texas, Now if anyone should be ashamed it’s those supposedly patriots whom neighborhoods are draped with American flags!
      John Parker

    • Valerie says:

      What a perfect response!❤️

  7. I am a son of a Tuskegee Airman (Ralph H. Davis) who was a flight mechanic of the 889th Basic Flying Sq. who got his pilot’s license at 18 yrs. in the state of R. I. and according the Dept. of Commerce in 1939 was the first black in the state of R.I. to have his license and he kept it for 55 years. And was one the owners of a 1947 Piper J-3Cub.

    • I am very proud of the buffalo soldiers. I have two books that they wrote and another with about ten stories in them. Two of my favorite movies are Tuskegee airmen and redtails and have watched buffalo soldiers on TV. It made me cry to see how the colored people were treated. The museum in Tacoma I would like to see. I’m now 70 years of age. I am white married but not together because he is Hispanic and got deported back to mexico. They get treated at times bad too. We have negroes Mexican and Indians in our family. I’m so proud of what the buffalo soldiers did.

    • Janet A. says:

      Thanks to your dad for his service!

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      What a wonderful heritage. We are so thankful for your father’s service.

  8. Brad Tipton says:

    This and other accounts I have read are PROOF POSITIVE that color or race has nothing to do with the dedication, bravery and love of country that these fighting men demonstrated.
    I pray that all are identified and brought home, WITH ALL HONORS.

  9. ALLYN PRATT says:

    How can a non family member help in this honorable effort? I am very proud for the service of these soldiers and would like to help in honoring their service and legacy.

    Col. Allyn Pratt
    USAR Ret.

    • Phaedra Swearengin says:

      I am the daughter of a US Marine and it’s not right that these men remain unidentified. I and a group of like minded genealogists are planning to track down family and let them know about this project. If you’re interested in helping, please let me know. [email protected]

    • Gene Ann says:

      I called the number that was in our paper and left a message offering to research for family members of Buffalo Soldiers, but they never got back to me.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Thank you Allyn, we have such a wonderful community with so many offers of help. I have reached out to the DPAA to ask the best way for our readers (who are not descendants of the 92nd Infantry members) to contribute. I will keep you posted.

  10. WcNamara says:

    You can help if you aren’t related to one of the Buffalo Soldiers by encouraging your elected officials to support funding for the effort to bring ALL unidentified American soldiers resting in foreign graves home!

  11. Rob Crutzen says:

    Best generation!!! Baffalo soldiers where fameuous for there endurance, strength and heroisme like the Tuskegee airman who served there country dispide how they were treated back home.

  12. HD says:

    This is a wonderful project. It goes without saying that honoring ONE fallen soldier is honoring ALL fallen soldiers, so that should satisfy anyone who wants to see honor done. This is good work.

  13. Georgella Ford says:

    I had 4 brothers and an who were veterans. My uncle served during World War II. He didn’t talk about his service time and although I worked for the VAMC as a social worker for thirty years I didn’t interview either of them about their service. Neither of them wanted my sons to go into the military. Working for the VA I never heard about the Buffalo Soldiers. My introduction was through the St. Louis African American genealogy & Historical society, and hearing a song in the Dominican Republic about them, not in these “United States “.

  14. A very strange kind of discrimination. Except for this Division and some artillery and airmen virtually all the black soldier’s were kept in support units such as supply and truck driver’s. They were mostly kept back from the worst dangers. One would think if they hated blacks so much they would use them as cannon fodder at the front. Instead in a perverse way they had an almost privileged position.

    • fran mc says:

      It was an insult to presume that they would not be as brave and skilled as other soldiers and give them non-combatant duties.

  15. I have been helping another non profit locate family members (living) to give their DNA to match to the remains of bodies from WWII. I would be happy to help if you need it.

  16. Alicia Thompson says:

    My dad was in the 92nd Div. He was a Purple Heart recipient and proud to have served.

  17. Leslie M Stewart says:

    Glad to see this post! My husband gave DNA to see if it would help to identify a cousin who died in WW II in the Netherlands, so I became aware of DPAA and recently attended one of their regular briefings (these are available on their website). They stressed that their greatest need is for family members to participate, particularly for WW II where many of the closest relatives are passing away. They also do need more funding for this work.

    BTW, not all of the black units were in safe support units — read about the Port Chicago disaster in California, where it was black soldiers who were loading ammunition under unsafe conditions.

    • Indeed, and even black support units went ashore on D Day in Normandy, and there were five black US Army units that were attached to the 4th and 5th Marines that stormed Iwo Jima. All supposedly “support” units that worked under fire from D Day on.

  18. Vaughn Filmore says:

    My father was a member of the 92nd and I have a photo of a group of them before they shipped out of Ft. Hauchuca…some with names

  19. Terry Giannetto says:

    I’m assuming that the Army has a list of the servicemen that were assigned to the 92nd…. The 50 heroes are likely members of that large group, right? Or there is already a list of likely names that may match these men, and perhaps could be used by other helpers to research descendants?

    If so, I wonder if it is possible to publish a list of names that were involved in that Battalion and give genealogists (amatuer and professional alike) a chance to help!

    I would be absolutely honored to try and assist, if possible.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Thank you Terry, we have such a wonderful community with so many offers of help. I have reached out to the DPAA to ask the best way for our readers (who are not descendants of the 92nd Infantry members) to contribute. I will keep you posted.

  20. Bob Friedman says:

    Thank you for this amazing article. I’m surprised, however, that you omitted the earlier history of Buffalo Soldiers. According to https://www.history.com,

    “Buffalo soldiers were African American soldiers who mainly served on the Western frontier following the American Civil War. In 1866, six all-Black cavalry and infantry regiments were created after Congress passed the Army Organization Act. Their main tasks were to help control the Native Americans of the Plains, capture cattle rustlers and thieves and protect settlers, stagecoaches, wagon trains and railroad crews along the Western front.”

    “…the soldiers of the all-Black 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were dubbed “buffalo soldiers” by the Native Americans they encountered….African American regiments formed in 1866, including the 24th and 25th Infantry (consolidated from four regiments) became known as buffalo soldiers.”

    “In the late 1890s, with the “Indian problem” mostly settled, the 9th and 10th Calvary and the 24th and 25th Infantry headed to Florida at the start of the Spanish-American War.”

    “Even facing blatant racism and enduring brutal weather conditions, buffalo soldiers earned a reputation for serving courageously. They fought heroically in the Battle of San Juan Hill, the Battle of El Caney and the Battle of Las Guasimas.”

    “The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments served in the Philippines in the early 1900s. Despite proving their military worth time and again, they continued to experience racial discrimination. During World War I, they were mostly relegated to defending the Mexican border.”

    “Both regiments were integrated into the 2nd Cavalry Division in 1940. They trained for overseas deployment and combat during World War II. The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were deactivated in May 1944.”

    “There were several [other] African American units that proved essential in helping to win World War II, with the Tuskegee Airmen being among the most celebrated. But the Red Ball Express, the truck convoy of mostly Black drivers were responsible for delivering essential goods to General George S. Patton’s troops on the front lines in France. The all-Black 761st Tank Battalion fought in the Battle of the Bulge….Yet, despite their role in defeating fascism, the fight for equality continued for African American soldiers after the World War II ended. They remained in segregated units and lower-ranking positions, well into the Korean War, a few years after President Truman signed an executive order to desegregate the U.S. military in 1948.”

    • Eden Teague Whitfield says:

      Wow! My grandfather and great-grandfather served together in the 9th Cavalry! They fought in the Spanish-American war, received honors for their service. Continued to live in the Phillipines where they married, and eventually I came along!! Thanks for the info!

    • Larry Hughes says:

      You are correct. The Buffalo Soldiers committed Genocide against the Plains Indians. The original Buffalo Soldier should have their two statues torn down from Kentucky and Alabama, their name changed, and their heroic medals recalled, and their duty unfit for service.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Thank you Bob! You are absolutely correct.

  21. JMJ says:

    Let’s honor all who served with honor and valor. Do not let outward (race, it does not define ancestry) appearance separate us, all those who fought should be remembered. This is a call in this moment to remember the Buffalo Soldiers.

    “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God”. Matthew 5:9

  22. Joan says:

    I tried to post this on the DNA Detectives Facebook group and it was removed because the admin said it violated the rule because they can’t verify that it is requiring people to purchase a service or become a member of a group. Does anyone know how this works?

  23. Tony says:

    Brave American Soldiers Deserve Their Story To Be Told Sacrifices Remembered !
    Recent Times I Prospected Gold Bougainville Island In The Pacific I Discovered A Number Of Skeletal Remains In Jungle My Observation Dozen Bodies Were Buried Stacked On Top Of Each Other There Were American Soldiers DogTags Visible On Some I Left Them Undisturbed. There Remains Should Be Taken Home They Deserve Be Buried With Respect Honour Families Deserve To Know Months Later Made A Phone Call US Consulate Reported What I Saw Gave My Contact Details Never Been Contacted

  24. Denis Castells says:

    I am writing a book about the french Resistance , and I have read a strange account saying that “black troops “were dropped by parachute in the south-west of France in july or august 1944. Have someone already heard about this story ?

  25. All Heroes who died in WWII deserve to be named. Their names are inscribed in the book of our Lord, but on earth we must honor them to. They are not forgotten. Our Fields of Honor foundation collected photo’s of men and women who are buried at Margraten, Ardennes, Henri-Chapelle, Epinal and Lorraine.

  26. EDDIE IRBY JR says:

    This is a piece of History that not only the U.S.GOVERNMENT left out,but a lot of our own people left out. I have ten men that I look out for here in Alabama and their families look out for them but we have buried 6 others that the families destroyed everything these men bought back from the combat zone.When the local or National news Media do a story on these men.they do NOT attach the words”GREATEST GENERATION”. The 92nd captured almost 25 thousand Germans by them selves.yet it is never mention…even on the American History Channel.The 92nd was the only all Black Combat group that took care of themsevels and they were the ONLY group that had a MEDAL OF HONOR MEMBER….. THAT HAS NOT HAPPEN SINCE THE CIVIL WAR WHERE THERE WERE 4

  27. Maria Urrutia says:

    Tell me how I can help find these hero’s families.
    I am on Family Search, Ancestry and other genealogy websites as well as genealogy Facebook groups.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Thank you Maria, we have such a wonderful community with so many offers of help. I have reached out to the DPAA to ask the best way for our readers (who are not descendants of the 92nd Infantry members) to contribute. I will keep you posted.

  28. sharon e siegel says:

    I would LOVE to help with this in any way possible. We have a missing Milford, PA man who would have turned 90 this year and has been missing 70 years as of July of 2021.

    Milton Wesley Bailey is an absolute true American hero, and only a year ago finally had YDNA supplied from the family we found.

    He held off enemy fire to allow his unit to retreat under heavy fire. He was last seen clutching his chest and firing his carbine from a North Korean mountain ridge. The grandson of a Civil War soldier, we have his beautiful and powerfully loving and caring letters he sent home daily to his beloved mother and grandmother.

    This hero needs to come home. I am here to help in any possible way that I can. Any way.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Thank you Sharon, we have such a wonderful community with so many offers of help. I have reached out to the DPAA to ask the best way for our readers (who are not descendants of the 92nd Infantry members) to contribute. I will keep you posted.

  29. Marjie Jansz says:

    This should be posted on Face Book so it can be shared everywhere.

  30. Darryl Boscoe says:

    I agree with you John Parker yet this reminds me of the way our vets were treated as they returned from the Vietnam War. Another terrible time for our nation.

  31. Kim Ogles says:

    @EDDIE IRBY JR – I just shared this on FB and will do so on LinkedIn & Twitter. I hear you and will try and help support.

  32. Scott Hamilton says:

    Quick idea – this might generate at least one or two solid leads. Do any of you with family members who were Buffalo Soldiers know if your fathers/uncles/grandpas or even friends kept either journals or mail or photos with names of those they served alongside in the war? This might get things started towards contacting relatives of those who can’t (as of yet) be honorably identified as part of this project.

  33. Margaret Humphries says:

    I hope it was okay but I posted a message on Facebook in the Ancestry Group about this article. I feel it is very important to bring all of our military home.

  34. Michael McKendry says:

    It would seem that American Legion and VFW Posts might be of some assistance as they often know of and honor, even cherish members service history.

    Have you considered reaching out to them.

    Michael

  35. Susan Sonju says:

    A number of people have offered to help. Is there a mechanism to do so? I belong to a couple of FaceBook groups whose members volunteer to research lost photos and memorabilia and attempt to return them to living relatives or descendants. There are many other such groups that search for living people, such as birth parents of adoptees, soldiers whose WWII dog tags were unearthed in Italy, help with genealogical research, etc. I would hope there is a way to tap the enthusiasm of these types of volunteer researchers into helping you locate living family of the Buffalo soldiers. Enough time has passed that young family members may not even be aware of a great-grandfather’s service, for example.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Thank you Susan, we have such a wonderful community with so many offers of help. I have reached out to the DPAA to ask the best way for our readers (who are not descendants of the 92nd Infantry members) to contribute. I will keep you posted.

  36. Barbara Currie says:

    Is there a list of names of the missing soldiers?

  37. B. L. Alberty says:

    Gedmatch.com

  38. John Throssell says:

    I’m a very white Englishman, disgusted how your country is blighted with racism, mine isn’t much better. A Richard who became famous in the US had Cree blood in him, I am very proud I carry his name. I would be equally proud were he any colour.

  39. Karen Thomas says:

    How can we share this story in order to reach a larger audience?

  40. Andrew Bailey says:

    My grandfather was in the U.S. Cavalry and was sent to Cuba during the
    Spanish-American War. Wondering what kind of honor he might have received?

  41. Tony Kerbs says:

    What can a crowd like us do to shame the government into making it a priority to bring EVERY soldier back home, regardless of when or where their lives were given up for us? Could an organized campaign funded by US citizens be implemented to shame the government? I am a septuagenarian who’s running running out of time but there are many out there, young and old, who upon hearing this story would react as I am and embraced this as a monumentally magnificent charge.

  42. Rona Wendeborn says:

    Wonderful history. Thanks

  43. Christine M says:

    As someone who served, I feel we need to bring these men home, identify them and give them the recognition and honor they deserve and give their family the closure they deserve as well.

  44. Charmaine Campany says:

    We have my husbands great aunt, Capt. Elizabeth B. Bush RN’s mementos from her service which included military patches, 9 were Buffalo Soldier patches, she was first in North Africa and later was with the first female nurses to enter the European Theatre- When she passed away in 1982 I was told she had lied about her age to enter the Army and in Italy had worked in the Naples hospital. This was written about her service: Elizabeth entered the Army on August 22, 1942 as a nurse (age 42). She served in Naples-Foggia and the Rome-Arno campaigns in Italy during WWII.
    During this time she was promoted to Captain. She was decorated with a WWII Victory Medal, the Meritorious Unit Badge and the EAME Theatre Ribbon with two bronze battle stars. She wore five overseas service bars and held the Army of Occupation Medal for Italy.
    I believe names on envelopes in this collection could have been men/casualties whose families she may have wanted to contact once back home, they were: PFC Xenephen? X Jerkine? ASN 38458280, Brackettville, TX Box 174; Capt. William M. Jones, ASN 34462840 Co.H 37th Inf. APO 92, C/OPostmaster, NY, NY; Pfc. Jino/Juno? Palladino 1412 Andover Road, Cleveland Hts. Ohio
    The Lewis County, New York historical society had first chance at her household items so could have more information if she had left any written records although I tried to find out and at the time they say they did not keep good records of donated items.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Charmaine, that is amazing. I recommend you reach out to the DPAA (their phone number is listed at the bottom of the article). Have you created a Fold3 Memorial page to document your aunt’s history? Please contact me if you need help creating this. We don’t want her service forgotten. [email protected]@ancestry.com

  45. Lisa Fisher says:

    Correct me if I missing something here. The officers were white and the enlisted men were African American. Therefore, they are looking for ALL of them, both races. Correct? I’ve had military service men in my family at least since the revolutionary war. I am mostly white but, have a small amount of African and Native American DNA as well. If we don’t know for sure if anyone there was connected to us would our DNA help?

  46. Stephania Hassan says:

    I believe I am the daughter of Verdun Cook who was an artist of the Buffalo newsletter and photographer in the 92nd infantry in 1944. My DNA is on file with Ancestry.com. I was born in 1947 in New York City.

  47. My wifes uncle died a POW in Korea in December, 1950. 25th Infintry Division. When captured, he was force marched almost to the Chinese border called the TIGER DEATH MARCH. His remains have not been returned to the U.S.

  48. Brenda DeLong Benary says:

    I waiting thank all men and women who have fought for our country

    Is it possible that the DNA of those soldiers
    Could be put on a site such as Ancestry.com

    I have found out about a grandfather that serviced in the civil war. Millions of people are putting their DNA out there we may be surprised how many of our fallen hero’s could be identified

    I thank every soldier white, black, male female for defending our country

  49. Kathy W says:

    My father was a teenage boy living in Lucca, Italy in hiding from Mussolini and his band of fascists. He recounted many stories of being freed by the Buffalo soldiers during World War II, with gratitude for their valor and generosity to the people of Lucca.

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