About LTC Daniel Russell Fox, USMC
Daniel Fox – known to his fellow Marines as “Danny” – was born in North Coventry, Pennsylvania on July 10, 1898. Father William “Frank” Fox worked as a laborer, and by 1910 had moved his family to nearby Pottstown, where he and Catherine eventually raised twelve children.
Enlistment and Boot Camp: Daniel Fox joined the Marines as a private on July 29, 1916 – just days after his seventeenth birthday. After completing training in South Carolina, Fox transferred between several administrative locations before shipping overseas as a member of 12th Company, 2nd Regiment.
Service Prior to 1941: Private Fox arrived at his first duty station – Marine Barracks, Seibo, Dominican Republic – in October, 1916. The 12th Company was involved in the occupation of the island; in addition to participating on expeditions, Fox also served as the company clerk. He was promoted to corporal on July 3, 1917.
With the prospect of war with Germany looming, the 12th Company was recalled to Quantico, Virginia in October 1917. Corporal Fox was reassigned to the Eighteenth Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in January 1918, and within weeks was with the Fourth Marine Brigade, American Expeditionary Force in France.
Fox’s Fifth Marines participated in the now legendary battle of Bellau Wood in June, 1918. Although he had been in the service for nearly two years, this was Fox’s first big battle – he was present from the June 6 until June 12, when a “slight” gunshot wound to the right foot sent him to the comparative safety of a hospital in the rear. By June 30, Fox’s foot had healed sufficiently to allow him to return to active duty. After a short spell at the replacement depot, Fox was assigned to the Seventeenth Company of the 5th Marines.
Fox was promoted to Sergeant in September, 1918, as the Marines prepared for an attack on Blanc Mont Ridge near the town of Reims, France. The regiment went into the attack on October 3; the Americans soon found themselves isolated on the ridge, fending off determined German counterattacks, supported by unusually effective artillery. Support was badly needed, but in an era before effective radios and without time to lay communications wire, the Marines found themselves relying on brave couriers who would personally deliver messages.
Sergeant Fox was one such courier. He volunteered to relay a vital message from his commander to the American lines, and made his way across the shell-blasted terrain, under constant fire from German artillery and machine guns. Not only did Fox survive to deliver his message, he returned to the front line to report that he had done so. Although shot in the back shortly after returning, Sergeant Fox refused to leave his post, and indeed went on to deliver more messages – under constant fire. He kept up his duty for four hours after being shot, and was finally evacuated to a hospital in the rear.
Blanc Mont Ridge would be Fox’s last battle of the war. He remained in the hospital until January 5, 1919, returning to the 17th Company and his old position as company clerk. Fox’s bravery had not gone unnoticed, and in April he was decorated with the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross. He received the award from Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, and shook hands with General John Lejeune. “[The] entire division of about 20,000 men passed in review before us. It certainly was beautiful,” Fox wrote to his mother. “I guess I shall always remember it as being one of the greatest happenings of my life.” Sergeant Fox was also awarded a Silver Star to wear on his Victory medal for “distinguishing himself while serving with the 17th Company, Fifth Regiment (Marines), 2d Division, American Expeditionary Forces at St. Etienne, France, 2 to 10 October 1918.”
A promotion to Company First Sergeant followed in May, but Fox was not to keep his enlisted rank much longer. As one of the most highly-decorated men in the regiment – he received the French Croix de Guerre in June 1919, also for his actions of October 4 – Fox was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, USMC Reserve, and became a company officer. The 5th Marines returned to the United States in August, 1919, and was deactivated. Fox retained his rank as a reservist, but was released from active duty. He returned to Pottstown as a local hero, began work as a draftsman for McClintic-Marshall Steel, and married Elsie Wentzel in 1921.
The weekend of Fox’s marriage was an eventful one, as it also marked the date of his return to the Corps. In lieu of a honeymoon, the newlyweds moved to housing at Quantico, where Lieutenant Fox attended classes and was given a regular commission in the Marines. In the following years, Fox returned to the Dominican Republic in September 1921 as a member of the Fifteenth Regiment, and was promoted to First Lieutenant that December. He would serve in “DR” with a variety of units until returning to the United States in October 1923.
Four years of service in South Carolina had Fox itching to go overseas again; he got his wish in mid-1927 when he traveled to Nicaragua as Adjutant of First Battalion, 5th Marines. Again, he served at a number of posts, including a stint with his old 17th Company, 5th Marines. He returned to the States again in 1929, and after reuniting with his wife, began preparing for his next duty station: China.
Daniel and Elsie arrived in Shanghai in May, 1930, where he took up his post as a company officer of K/3/4th Marines. He was soon transferred to Company M as executive officer, and took command of the company in early 1931. Captain Fox was in charge of Company M when the Japanese declared war on China; although international tensions were rising, his Marines could do nothing and life continued as normally as possible. The Foxes continued living in Shanghai; Daniel was transferred to the battalion HQ Company as Operations Officer and served there until late 1933, when he was returned to the United States.
Over the next three years, Fox attended training at Fort Benning and Marine Corps Schools Detachment, Quantico, where he became an instructor. He was promoted to Major in September 1936, served a brief stint as executive officer of 2nd Battalion 5th Marines (under future commandant Lemuel C. Sheperd and with the infamous Gunny Leland “Lou” Diamond), and settled in as a student at the Newport, Rhode Island Naval War College. His thesis, “Foreign Policy and International Relations of the United States,” was accepted in April 1940, and Fox – who had attracted the notice of the upper brass – was dispatched to Pearl Harbor, where he joined the staff of Vice Admiral Isaac Kidd, commander of Battleship Division One. Kidd and his staff were quartered aboard the Division’s flagship, the battleship USS Arizona.
Wartime Service: Fox served on the Admiral’s staff for all of 1941. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in May 1941, and showed every indication of continuing his rise through the ranks.
Date Of Loss: When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Arizona was struck by several bombs that caused catastrophic damage. In addition to the hit to her main magazine, the battleship also took a direct hit to the bridge, where Admiral Kidd and his staff were attempting to conduct the defense of the ship. Lieutenant Colonel Fox was either on the bridge or on his way there when the ship was bombed; his exact fate is uncertain, and his remains were never found. He was the most highly decorated and highest ranked Marine to be killed in the attack.
In 1942, a Navy salvage diver recovered Daniel Fox’s ceremonial sword, and returned it to Elsie. She and her son Danny had been living in San Francisco, but returned to Pottstown to be closer to family after her husband’s death.
Next Of Kin: Wife, Mrs. Elsie Fox