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Faces of the 92nd in Italy

Faces of the 92nd in Italy

 By guest writer Mike Mazzaschi [email protected]
Veteran’s Day is celebrated on November 11 in America, and this article honors three veterans of the 92nd Infantry Division of the US Army. These portraits will add faces to our most-read post Liberation Day and the Liberation of America, which is about an aspect of America’s racial and social evolution which happened in the Garfagna, Versilia, and Lunigiana areas of Italy.  It’s also the post we are proudest of – for one simple reason: young people are reading it.  Perhaps they’ll learn a bit about their heritage, perhaps they’ll learn a bit about Italy. Whatever they learn, it matters most that they are rewarded for being curious, for questioning, for thinking, and for dreaming.
In 1992, responding to pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, the US Army commissioned a study to ascertain why no African-American soldiers had earned any of the 457 Medals of Honor awarded during World War II.  It examined the records of those earning the Distinguished Service Cross and as a result, seven African-Americans received the Medal of Honor, including Lieutenants Baker and Fox from the 92nd Infantry Division for action in Italy.
“America has a conscience, and it’s clearing its conscience, thank God.” Lt. Vernon J. Baker, Company C, 370 Regiment, 92nd Infantry at his Medal ceremony.
President Bill Clinton presented the Medal of Honor to Lt. Vernon Baker on January 13, 1997.  Lt. Baker was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and was orphaned when he four. He was raised by his grandparents. When he tried to enlist in the Army the first time, in 1941, he was turned away, the recruiter stating “We don’t have any quotas for you people.” He tried again three weeks later with a different recruiter and was accepted. He died at his home in Idaho in 2010 at age 90.  The Official Citation for his Act of Valor* describes his actions: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty in action on 5 and 6 April 1945, Lieutenant Baker advanced at the head of his weapons platoon, along with Company C’s three rifle platoons, toward their objective; Castle Aghinolfi—a German mountain strong point on the high ground just east of the coastal highway above Pietrasanta in Versilia.
Moving more rapidly than the rest of the company, Lieutenant Baker and about 25 men reached the south side of a draw some 250 yards from the castle within two hours. In reconnoitering for a suitable position to set up a machine gun, Lieutenant Baker observed two cylindrical objects pointing out of a slit in a mount at the edge of a hill. Crawling up and under the opening, he stuck his M-1 into the slit and emptied the clip, killing the observation post’s two occupants. Moving to another position in the same area, Lieutenant Baker stumbled upon a well-camouflaged machine gun nest, the crew of which was eating breakfast. He shot and killed both enemy soldiers.

Castle Aginolfi was an important objective as it was on the ‘Gothic’ Line and overlooks
the entire coastal plain. On the first headland in the background were the huge guns at
Punta Bianca, between the two headlands is the entrance to the naval base of La Spezia.

After Captain John F. Runyon, Company C’s Commander, joined the group, a German soldier appeared from the draw and hurled a grenade which failed to explode. Lieutenant Baker shot the enemy twice as he tried to flee. Lt. Baker then went into the draw alone. There he blasted the concealed entrance to another dugout with a hand grenade, shot a German soldier who emerged after the explosion, tossed another grenade into the dugout and entered firing his submachine gun, killing two more Germans. As Lt. Baker climbed back out of the draw, enemy machine gun and mortar fire began to inflict heavy casualties on the group of 25 US soldiers, killing or wounding about two-thirds of them.
The reinforcements they expected did not arrive, and Capt. Runyon ordered a withdrawal in two groups. Lieutenant Baker volunteered to cover the withdrawal of the first group, which consisted of mostly walking wounded, and to remain to assist in the evacuation of the more seriously wounded. During the second group’s withdrawal, Lieutenant Baker, supported by covering fire from one of his platoon members, destroyed two machine gun position (previously bypassed during the assault) with hand grenades. In all, Lieutenant Baker accounted for nine dead enemy soldiers, elimination of three machine gun positions, an observation post, and a dugout. On the following night, Lieutenant Baker voluntarily led a battalion advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire toward the division objective. Lieutenant Baker’s fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the military service.”     _____________________________________________________________________________
“That will be right on you. I can’t do that.” the artillery officer shouted. “Fire it!” Fox yelled back.Lieutenant John Fox calling in the artillery fire that would kill him. December 26, 1944.

In 1972, an American woman named Solace Wales began restoring a home in the tiny town of Sommocolonia, Italy. The remote village is above the small city of Barga in the area of Tuscany known as the Garfagna. A mountainous area stretched along the Serchio River valley, it has been a conduit between adjacent Italian regions for centuries. Once a part of the Rome to Canterbury pilgrimage route known as the Francigena, modern travel now opted for coastal routes.  Unfortunately, in World War II, its attraction as a route of travel made it a battleground.
Solace learned of the World War II battles in her adopted town, and learned of the help the villagers’ received from the American soldiers that served here. She gathered the villagers’ memories of the battle that began on Christmas Day, 1944.  One day near her home, she came upon the stone that remembered John Fox, and so began her research to learn why there was no other memorial honoring the brave soldiers the villagers remembered. In the days before the internet was public_htmled, it wasn’t easy.
Ms. Wales’ efforts at researching the story on the US side had met a dead end at the Pentagon. Finally, in 1994, she found the 92nd Infantry veteran’s group. They were able to put her in touch with the Artillery officer, Otis Zachery, one of Fox’s closest friends, and she was able to fill in important parts of the story. Fox’s widow, Arlene, and his daughter, Sandra, and the 92nd veteran’s group, organized the pressure to recognize the soldiers who fought at Sommocolonia – especially since more of the story was now available. On January 13, 1997, First Lieutenant John R. Fox was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Lt. Fox’s Citation*:  For extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy in 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 Lt. 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.     __________________________________________________________________________
Tu, Buffalo? Ivan J. Houston had experienced that characteristic exuberant Italian warmth many years before, but one day in 1978 in Viareggio he was swept away again, this time con brio. As Mr. Houston tells it in his book, ‘Black Warrior’, “Walking in the little shops that dot the beachside, we came to an artist’s studio. My wife, Philippa, an artist herself, said, “Let’s go in.” The artist was there; and as we looked around, I said to him in Italian, “I was here in 1944 and 1945.” He was a big, gruff-looking Italian, and he said, “Tu, Buffalo?” I said, “Si.” He started hugging and kissing me with the great emotion common to Italians. He opened his wallet and pulled out an old card that identified him as a partisan. His name was Bruno Tintori, and he described how he had helped us carry ammunition over the mountains. He took us next door to a bar, introduced us to his friends, and we talked and drank grappa the rest of the afternoon.  Bruno Tintori is now dead, but I later learned that he had become one of Italy’s most famous contemporary artists.”

In 1943, although it was a sacrifice,  Ivan Houston had not doubted that he would join the Army and fight for his country.  Although he was in the midst of getting his college education at his father’s alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, he signed up. His father had fought in World War I and his great grandfather had fought in the Civil War. But no young man of 19 would be sufficiently world-wise to be ready for the experiences he faced. His world in Southern California had not prepared him for the segregated and racist institution he would find in the Army. His track and field experience hadn’t sufficiently prepared him for the 100+ degree temperatures and the forced marches in an Arizona training camp. Attending a fully integrated Berkeley was not much use to him as the only college man in a segregated barracks where many could not read.
Mr. Houston entered the combat zone in August, 1944, as part of the 370th Regimental Combat Team, stationed at Cascina on the southern bank of the Arno. The German / Italian Fascist forces lay to the north. The next nine months are a long series of attacks and counterattacks and troop movements as the Allies try to overcome the German forces arrayed along and in front of the Gothic line. Beginning the war as a battalion clerk,  Ivan was in position to see and record his unit’s action. After the Arno came action in the Garfagna, then Versilia, and then back to the Garfagna.
As the war in Italy neared an end, Ivan tells of how his unit raced up the Garfagna and entered the Magra River valley near Casola. The units outran their support, but also surprised the German forces. Quickly taking Aulla, and then Terrarossa, they liberated Pontremoli on April 26, 1945.

The assistence of partisans, partigiani, is a background throughout the action. Every US unit was assisted by local interpreters, and partisans advised constantly on local conditions and helped coordinate and participated in attacks. For the final push to Pontremoli, over 1,000 partigiani helped clear the mountain areas.
In reading Mr. Houston’s book, one reads of the daily considerations of this topsy-turvey world. It is part of America, but distant from the one we know. The world is at war, and giant institutions thrash awkwardly with the consequences, creating a kaleidoscope of changing reality.
Gradually, the reader begins to admire the qualities that allowed Ivan to endure and survive and succeed. He is always amiable. He always gives respect, and is very slow to judge people. He is diligent in his duties, and he is a patriot. Finally we understand, he is America, he is the dutiful common man without which nothing works. If there are not countless soldiers like Mr. Houston, there are no Generals, there are no Medals of Honor, and there is no democracy
Mr. Houston survived the war, though he was wounded by shrapnel and received a Purple Heart, and he suffered a loss of hearing from the artillery concussion. But his life resumed, and he succeeded. He returned to Berkeley and received his degree in 1948. He’s been married to Philippa for over 60 years and they have three children. He was the CEO of one of the largest African-American owned businesses in the US. He served on numerous Boards of Directors, including Kaiser Aluminum and Metromedia, and gave back to his community, including as Chairman of the Los Angeles Urban League. He deserves to stand proud, and we salute him. We agree with Bruno Tintori and the Italian people’s opinion of the 92nd Infantry, as expressed at the end of ‘Black Warriors’…
“Bruno Tintori’s expression of gratitude for what the Buffalo Soldiers had done for Italy, fighting in the rugged North Apennine mountains and freeing them from the yoke of Fascism and Nazism, will always be remembered. To the Italians we were first class. To the Italians we were heroes.”
More Info

Wikipedia Lt. Baker A caring description of Vernon Baker’s life.
SFGate Excellent article about Lt. Fox, the 92nd, and Solace Wales .
NY Times Sommocolonia and Lt. John Fox (July 2000)
Wikipedia Lt. Fox Overview of information on John Fox.
Black WarriorsBook website* We have made minor modifications for clarity, brevity, and geographical accuracy.

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A Novel of North Carolina and Italy

Will and Dena

Dena and Will

Early in 1943, Hirohito, Hitler, and Mussolini are near the apex of their powers.  In the same year, Will, a lumberjack and amateur baseball player, and Dena, a beautiful and head-strong co-ed, fall in love.

While a world war rages, their dreams are threatened, first by Dena’s mother’s classism.  Dena’s mother declares Will is “not good enough” for her daughter and orders Dena to stop seeing him.  Dena vows never to give up her love for Will and won’t have anything to do with the suitor, a young teacher, her mother chooses for her.

Meanwhile, a group of powerful North Carolina businessmen have designs to exploit Will’s extraordinary baseball skills for their financial gain.  The carefully laid baseball business scheme fails when the Ku Klux Klan attacks Will’s family.  Dena and Will are forced to separate as he flees for his life.  As he departs, Dena provides Will with writings of Langston Hughes, whose poems and columns become central to Will’s determination to survive all hardships and reunite with Dena.  Will finds refuge in the US Army’s 366th Infantry Regiment and the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division fighting Hitler’s Wehrmacht in Italy.

”]Front cover of Will and Dena———————————————————————————–

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Our Legacy, Our Life-line

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Our Legacy, Our Life-line

Honoring the Extraordinary Service Provided

by the Roberson Men

Written by guest author Darlene Dunmeyer Roberson

GySgt (retired) Oscar Roberson

GySgt (retired) Oscar Roberson, United States Marine Corps

Sixty plus years ago, a decision was made by a teenage boy to leave the fields of Florida and join the United States Navy. He knew nothing about the world outside of Jasper, Florida. But he knew that whatever was on the other side of Jasper had to be better than picking cotton.

Oscar Roberson, the son of a sharecropper, was born on March 17, 1926. His education would extend to the third grade. Oscar’s decision to join the military would take him to places he could only dream of and introduce him to people he could only read about. Back then, jobs in the military for people of color were limited to cooks and drivers. Since Oscar enlisted without a driver’s license, he was sure to be a cook.

After serving 4 years in the Navy, Oscar decided to cross branches and enlist in the Marine Corps. His military journey took him to World War II and the Vietnam War. He served state side and overseas. He worked in galleys and drove Generals and their families around. He served his country honorably for over twenty-two years.

Because of his success in the military, Oscar touted with pride his love of the military and his country, enticing his children to follow suit, but at a higher level. Oscar Roberson, you were perfect in your passion. I salute you!

His first-born:

Captain Wendell Van Roberson, Sr.

Captain Wendell Van Roberson, Sr., United States Air Force

1985-1992
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm

Second born:

LCDR (retired) Ronald R. Roberson

LCDR (retired) Ronald R. Roberson, United States Navy

1984-1985

– Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) Program

1989-2008

Operation Desert Fox, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom

The legacy continues: His Grandson

Captain Adriel Maurece Roberson

Captain Adriel Maurece Roberson, United States Army Reserve

2005-present

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Operation Enduring Freedom

The future: His Grandson

PFC Wendell Van Roberson, Jr.

PFC Wendell Van Roberson, Jr., Battery Creek High School JROTC, US Marine Corps

2010-present

To the Veterans in my life, I salute you!

To My Marines:

From the Halls of Montezuma To the Shores of Tripoli; We fight our country’s battles In the air, on land and sea; First to fight for right and freedom And to keep our honor clean; We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.

To my Airman:

Off we go into the wild sky yonder, Keep the wings level and true; If you’d live to be a grey-haired wonder Keep the nose out of the blue!

To my Sailor / “Chop”:

Anchors Aweigh, my boys

Anchors Aweigh

Farewell to college joys

We sail at break of day, ‘ay ‘ay ‘ay

To my heart, my Soldier:First to fight for the right, And to build the Nation’s might, And The Army Goes Rolling Along. Proud of all we have done, Fighting till the battle’s won, And the Army Goes Rolling Along.
Then it’s hi! hi! hey! The Army’s on its way. Count off the cadence loud and strong; For where’er we go, You will always know That The Army Goes Rolling Along.
  • / Comments Off on A Veterans’ Day salute for a Buffalo Soldier

A Veterans’ Day salute for a Buffalo Soldier

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Trojan

Trojan

Private Roberts knew his duty and would not be deterred by obstacles.  His company commander, Captain Robert Gray, had assured Fillmore Roberts that a delay of a day until the cold winter rain storm passed was acceptable.

The next morning was clear and colder than any so far in mid-December.  Fillmore and his Indiana friends, Anderson Taylor and George
Smith, had joined the army in September, during the waning days of summer.  Anderson and George helped Fillmore carry his weapons and mission cargo to the corral.

Anderson chided, “Man, the cap’n must have it in for you.  What did you screw up to get this run?”

George held up a gloved hand in Anderson’s face.  “Hey, can’t you see?  The cap’n knows who he can ‘pend on.  Dat’s why he ain’t sent the likes o’ you.”

Fillmore saddled his golden-mane sorrel, Trojan.  He slipped his Spencer carbine into its saddle boot.  Trojan’s breath was as white as the heavy frost on the crunchy ground.  Fillmore adjusted his revolver under his overcoat, split front and aft to the waist, and mounted.  He wished for a fall day as George stood on a rail of Trojan’s stall and helped him don his heavy cargo pouch on his back.

Grinning, Fillmore waved good-bye, “See you turkeys in three weeks.”

George and Anderson called, “Fare thee well.”

* * *

Fillmore and Trojan forded three streams with ease before reaching the rain-swollen Canadian River.  Fillmore stopped and considered returning to Fort Arbuckle.  He thought, no, the mission is to deliver this mail to headquarters and Fort Gibson.  By God, I’m going to do it.  Still, he paused longer, sitting his horse.

Winter on the Canadian River OK

Winter on the Canadian River

At length, he decided to continue his mission and deliver the mail.  “Okay, Trojan.  Let’s go.”  Trojan would not budge.

For the first time since they had been together, Fillmore used his spurs.  Trojan danced sideways, and then moved to the edge of the brown rushing torrent where he stopped again.  “Com’on.  Trojan, let’s go.”

Trojan stepped into the cold water and sighed.  The shallow water, just over the bank, only covered Trojan’s hooves.  At midstream, Fillmore felt the water would sweep him from his off his steed, so he held fast with one hand on the saddle horn.  Trojan lost his footing and stumbled.  The river swept both man and horse along its course.  “Trojan!  Help me!”  Fillmore went under several times beneath the weight of the heavy mail pouch on his back.  Finally, he could no longer see Trojan.

* * *

Spring on the Canadian River OK

Spring on the Canadian River

By February, Fillmore was labeled a deserter.  On May 20, 1868, members of Company L found his remains caught in willows several miles downstream from the ford.  The mail pouch was still strapped to his back.  Trojan’s remains were nearby.  His comrades gave him a hero’s burial.

This Veterans’ Day salute is for Private Fillmore Roberts, Company L, Tenth US Cavalry of Fort Arbuckle, Indian Territory.

By Bob Rogers, former US Army captain and Vietnam War veteran

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Coming 30 November 2011

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Front cover of First Dark

When next the bugle sounds, an exciting new hero will soon ride the 19th century western range. Isaac Rice is the new hero, coming 30 Nov 2011 to your favorite bookseller and e-book reader. Watch for Isaac in a new novel by Bob Rogers; First Dark: Buffalo Soldier’s Story. 20 years in the making, First Dark delivers a much-anticipated historically correct tale of war, love, and redemption.

Read more… https://bobrogers.biz/id15.html

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A Veterans’ Day salute for a comrade in arms

Lloyd_W_Newton

General Lloyd W. "Fig" Newton

Lloyd Newton was my classmate at Tennessee  State University.  Of course, we called him Fig.  He was a 1966 Reserve Officer Training Corps
distinguished graduate with a bachelor’s degree in aviation education.  Fig and I served a tour of duty together in Vietnam at Da Nang Air Force Base, South Vietnam, otherwise known as “Rocket City.”    He flew 269 combat missions, including 79 missions over North Vietnam.

After a second tour of duty in Vietnam, Fig became the first African-American pilot to fly with the US Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds.

US_Air_Force_Thunderbirds

US Air Force Thunderbirds

From 1978 to 1982 he was assigned as an Air Force congressional liaison officer with the US House of Representatives, Washington,  DC. He has commanded three wings and an air division, and held numerous staff positions. Beginning in 1993 and until 1995, he was director of operations, J-3, United States Special Operations Command. Newton was a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours in the T-37, T-38, F-4,
F-15, F-16, C-12 and F-117 stealth fighter.

Fig is a retired United States Air Force four star general who also served as Commander, Air Education and Training Command (COMAETC), which includes the US Air Force Academy, from 1997 to 2000.

Air Force Academy Chapel

Air Force Academy Chapel

This Veteran’s Day salute is for my friend and comrade, General LloydW.“Fig” Newton, US Air Force, Retired.

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By guest author, Carl Gamble, veteran, former USAF pilot, retired airline Captain

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Welcome to the new magazine for Buffalo Soldier news!

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The new Buffalo Soldier Sentinel Ezine publishes articles honoring former cavalrymen and infantrymen who served in 9th, 10th, 24th, and 25th Regiments between 1866 and 1952.  Matters of interest to descendants, current active and retired soldiers, all veterans, and the public are to be included in the Sentinel.  The Sentinel is the go to place for public_htmlments related to Buffalo Soldiers that are sought by associations, clubs, and other news organizations.

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