Wilburn Ross “broke the assault single-handedly and forced the Germans to withdraw,” read his Medal of Honor citation. He died in Pierce County last week at 94.
A DuPont, Pierce County, man who received the Medal of Honor for single-handedly fighting back eight German counterattacks in World War II died Tuesday in Lakewood.
Retired Master Sgt. Wilburn K. Ross, an Army machine-gunner who received the military’s highest award for valor for his action during a battle in France, was 94.
Mr. Ross, then a private, served in the Army’s storied 3rd Infantry Division and saw combat in Morocco and Italy, where he was wounded by shrapnel in 1943.
A year later, his unit encountered elite German alpine troops in the Vosges Mountains.
On Oct. 30, 1944, Mr. Ross’ company lost 55 of 88 men. About 11:30 a.m., Mr. Ross moved 10 yards beyond his company’s riflemen and set up his light machine gun.
He was an open target, yet he held steady for five hours, in essentially a one-man battle.
Wave after wave of German soldiers attacked Mr. Ross’ position. He repelled them with machine-gun fire.
At one point, he grabbed a rifle from a wounded soldier and aimed it toward the approaching enemy. The rifle was hit by a German bullet, rendering the gun useless.
“I throwed that thing down,” Mr. Ross told Militaryvaloan.com in 2013, “and I had that machine gun pouring.”
When the machine gun ran out of ammunition, “he merely shook his head,” William T. Wardell, a lieutenant, said in 1945.
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With the few surviving U.S. riflemen reduced to fixing their bayonets for hand-to-hand combat, German troops crawled as close as 4 yards to Mr. Ross’ machine-gun nest. They were about to toss grenades when he received a fresh supply of ammunition.
Said Wardell, “In less than a minute, I saw 50 Germans fall dead or wounded around his machine gun. When the enemy turned and ran, corpses were piled high around the gun.”
Mr. Ross “broke the assault single-handedly and forced the Germans to withdraw,” read his Medal of Honor citation.
Mr. Ross was born in Strunk, Kentucky. Wounded in the Korean War, he remained in the Army until 1964. He settled in DuPont, where he worked in a pickle factory and drove a van for a veterans hospital. He often attended veterans events and was one of 12 Medal of Honor recipients featured on postage stamps released in 2013.
The Seattle Times profiled Mr. Ross for that occasion.
“Sometimes people salute me,” he said.
The Tillicum Veterans of Foreign Wars post was renamed in his honor in 2011. A DuPont nature trail is named after him. So is a highway in Kentucky.
His wife of more than 60 years, Monica, died in 2011. They had six children.