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Black 'Buffalo Soldiers' Honored

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A memorial was dedicated in Italy honoring the heroism of black World War II veterans defending a vital position in December 1944 -- a battle forgotten for years as Americans ignored the role black troops played in the war, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyll Attkisson.

Sandra Fox was 2 when her father, Lt. John Fox, lost his life fighting Nazi forces in this medieval Tuscan village during World War II.

On Sunday, more than 55 years later, she came here for the first time to attend a ceremony in memory of her father and of the other black American "Buffalo Soldiers" and all those killed here. She also came to dedicate the battle site -- a 10th century fortress atop the village -- to peace.

Buffalo Soldiers was the nickname originally applied to the black American unit of newly freed slaves who fought in cavalry and infantry divisions in the late 1800s. The term came to mean any soldier who served in an all-black unit.

About a dozen veterans and Sommocolonian villagers who lived through the Dec. 26, 1944, battle also gathered on a sunny morning to lay a wreath at the site.

"I really don't recall anything from that year," said Sandra Fox, who traveled from Houston, Texas, with her mother, Arlene. "My oldest recollection is my father's funeral, about two years later. But it's important to be here today."

The fortress still carries scars of the battle. A big chunk of its facade was destroyed by the artillery fire heroically ordered by Lt. Fox on his own position when he saw that the fortress was surrounded by enemy soldiers.

Veterans of the all-black Army's 92nd Infantry Division said about 50 of the 70 Americans were killed in the struggle for the fortress -- a battle the Americans lost.

Other soldiers who died in the battle included some 30 Italian partisans fighting on the side of the U.S. forces; the Austrian Alpine soldiers; and Italian soldiers allied with Nazi forces. Civilians also were killed.

The role of Buffalo Soldiers in American military history has often been overlooked.

Three years ago, Fox was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

"They are catching up," said his daughter. "It is important for the old ones, because they were the ones who paid the price, and also for the young ones, so they can understand how high a price was paid."

The fortress in Sommocolonia, about 60 miles northwest of Florence, was renamed Rock of Peace. It commands views of rugged mountains and was donated to the town by one of the villagers whose family owned the fortress.

Many people in Sommocolonia, a town of some 100 inhabitants, still remember the battle.

"I live that December 26 morning every day," said Lilia Cassettari, tears in her eyes, showing a picture of her father, Mario Cassettari, a 29-year-old Italian soldier killed that day.