Private Wilburn K. Ross, USA (October 30, 1944)

Wilburn Kirby Ross was born on May 12, 1922 in Strunk, Kentucky. At age 18 he worked as a coal miner, but was employed in Virginia as a shipyard welder when he received his draft notice to report for induction into the United States Army. He was a foot soldier with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.

On October 30, 1944, after his company had sustained over 60 percent casualties in an attack, Ross almost single-handedly repelled a Nazi counterattack near St. Jacques, France with just a M1919 Browning Machine Gun and a dwindling supply of ammunition. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
WilburnRoss
Photo: Saturday Evening Post

ROSS, WILBURN K.

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company G, 350th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near St. Jacques, France, 30 October 1944. Entered service at: Strunk, Ky.
G.O. No.: 30, 14 April 1945.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty near St. Jacques, France. At 11:30 a.m. on 30 October 1944, after his company had lost 55 out of 88 men in an attack on an entrenched. full-strength German company of elite mountain troops, Pvt. Ross placed his light machine gun 10 yards in advance of the foremost supporting riflemen in order to absorb the initial impact of an enemy counterattack. With machinegun and small-arms fire striking the earth near him, he fired with deadly effect on the assaulting force and repelled it. Despite the hail of automatic fire and the explosion of rifle grenades within a stone’s throw of his position, he continued to man his machinegun alone, holding off 6 more German attacks. When the eighth assault was launched, most of his supporting riflemen were out of ammunition. They took positions in echelon behind Pvt. Ross and crawled up, during the attack, to extract a few rounds of ammunition from his machinegun ammunition belt. Pvt. Ross fought on virtually without assistance and, despite the fact that enemy grenadiers crawled to within 4 yards of his position in an effort to kill him with hand grenades, he again directed accurate and deadly fire on the hostile force and hurled it back. After expending his last rounds, Pvt. Ross was advised to withdraw to the company command post, together with 8 surviving riflemen, but, as more ammunition was expected, he declined to do so. The Germans launched their last all-out attack, converging their fire on Pvt. Ross in a desperate attempt to destroy the machine gun which stood between them and a decisive breakthrough. As his supporting riflemen fixed bayonets for a last-ditch stand, fresh ammunition arrived and was brought to Pvt. Ross just as the advance assault elements were about to swarm over his position. He opened murderous fire on the oncoming enemy; killed 40 and wounded 10 of the attacking force; broke the assault single-handedly, and forced the Germans to withdraw. Having killed or wounded at least 58 Germans in more than 5 hours of continuous combat and saved the remnants of his company from destruction, Pvt. Ross remained at his post that night and the following day for a total of 36 hours. His actions throughout this engagement were an inspiration to his comrades and maintained the high traditions of the military service.

Ross remained in the Army after the war and eventually retired during the early 1960s as a Master Sergeant. He also served in the Korean War. Master Sergeant Ross is still alive today at age 92. He is the fourth-oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor after Robert D. Maxwell, George T. Sakato, and Charles H. Coolidge.

2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry is currently a component of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The 3rd Infantry Division is presently home based at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

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