BRAIDED IN FIRE – Black GIs and Tuscan Villagers on the Gothic Line.
More than 20 years has now past since we published on barganews the first article written by Frank Viviano (article here) about John Fox, Sommocolonia, the Buffalo soldiers and the story of what really happened in 1944.
When a massive German assault was launched on Sommocolonia in December 1944, a scant two platoons of American infantrymen were dug in here. Their own commanding officers expected them to throw down their guns and run.
But for twenty critical hours, the tiny complement of seventy G.I.s — all of them black, from the U.S. Army’s segregated 92nd Infantry Division — held out against an offensive that might have changed the course of World War Two.
Then they vanished, almost completely, from the war’s official records.
It has taken seven decades of stubborn efforts by the battle’s few survivors, and thirty years of research by an American author – Solace Wales who accidentally stumbled onto their tale, to fill in the empty page in that history.
“John Fox, U.S. Army Lieutenant, December 26, 1944,” it read in Italian. The low stone marker had been erected by the village authorities, and stood next to the graves of anti-Fascist Italian Partisans who died in Sommocolonia.
Curious, Wales asked a neighbor about Fox. “He was one of the black Americans who died here back in the war. “They almost all died, you know,” the neighbor told Wales.
This week all those years of research have now come to fruition as her book, BRAIDED IN FIRE – Black GIs and Tuscan Villagers on the Gothic Line, has just been published.
Solace Wales contributes a remarkable, unique account which is not available anywhere else . . . Because of her gracious literary style, she vividly captures the ways in which the African American soldiers and the Italians of Sommocolonia’s lives became intertwined. The book breaks new ground.— Carolyn Ross Johnston, author of “My Father’s War: Fighting with the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II”
Braided in Fire is a celebration of human dignity in desperate circumstances.
This stirring memoir follows one woman’s search to understand the drama that unfolded between the Italian peasants of Sommocolonia and the African-American infantrymen of the 366th Infantry Regiment.
The soldiers whose lives were lost or changed irrevocably by a village battle in Tuscany during the Battle of Garfagnana belong to the legendary “Buffalo Division” 92nd Infantry; however, their story remains largely untold.
With Braided in Fire, Solace Wales shines a light on this timeless story of bravery, resulting in necessary reading for everyone. Braided in Fire is not just military history, but tells of the human toll of war: the drama, the folly, the heartache —all present in grand measure for two peoples marginalised over the years for reasons of race and economic circumstances.
Cultures and relationships are intertwined to become Braided in Fire in Sommocolonia, a medieval Tuscan village in the Apennines directly on the Third Reich’s highly fortified ‘Gothic Line’ which stretched across northern Italy.
Only at Sommocolonia did attacking German troops break through this formidable line of defense, with dire consequences for the inhabitants and their defenders, a handful of black GIs, who were outnumbered three-to-one by Axis troops.
In the desperate fight, Lt. John Fox sacrificed himself with supreme heroism. (He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour 52 years later.) The military action, and tragic inaction of certain senior white officers, is described in detail.
Braided in Fire paints a narrative befitting the beauty and rich hues of the Tuscan hills and its people, juxtaposed by the toils of a segregated America in black versus white, even while wearing Army green. These two worlds are woven together in the passion, heartbreak, and violence of war, ultimately providing the reader with the potential for redemptive peace and cultural harmony.
BRAIDED IN FIRE can be bought on line on AMAZON
Black GIs and Tuscan Villagers on the Gothic Line By Solace Wales
$20 US |
Paperback maps, 24 pages of B&W photographs
Publisher: Knox Press Publication: Spring 2020
Language: English ISBN: 9781948496032
Images from the celebrations for the “La Rocca alla Pace” – Sommocolonia 16th July 2000 including images of Arlene Fox -the widow of John Fox, Otis Zachery and Rothacker Smith
The Braided in Fire website is here