MOH Recipient Wilbur Ross Passes at 94 – One More Greatest Generation Member Gone

By Faye Higbee

Staff Sergeant Wilbur Ross was a Medal of Honor Recipient who is credited with holding off 9 German attacks on October 30, 1944. He passed into eternity on May 9, 2017 at the age of 94. He is one more member of the “Greatest Generation” that has been lost. But his deeds, his bravery, should be remembered.

St Jacques, France, October 30, 1944

Private Wilbur Ross and his company, attached to 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, hit an entrenched German company of what was described as “elite mountain troops.”  In short order, they lost 55 out of 88 men.

Ross took his light machine gun ten yard ahead of the riflemen in order to take the initial impact of the German soldiers. His deadly accuracy with the machine gun managed to repel the German attack.

Several more times the Germans came, with automatic weapons and rifle grenades exploding around him. By the last time, though his supporting riflemen were out of ammunition. Some of them crawled up behind him and took a few rounds from his ammunition belt. The situation was becoming dire.

The Wilburn K. Ross Medal of Honor Citation reads in part:

Private Ross fought on virtually without assistance and, despite the fact that enemy grenadiers crawled to within four 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, Private Ross was advised to withdraw to the company command post, together with eight 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 Private 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 Private 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 ten 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 five hours of continuous combat and saved the remnants of his company from destruction, Private 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.

Wilbur Ross was one of the tiny handful of remaining Medal of Honor Winners from WWII still living. In an interview done by Military VA Loan,  he told of one moment in the fight when the  rifleman standing next to him could no longer shoot his carbine because of his wounds. So Ross grabbed the gun.

A German soldier aimed right at Ross, but miraculously, the bullet hit the carbine instead of its intended target.

“That dang guy in front of me – he shot and split the damn stock on that thing. I throwed that thing down and I had that machine gun pouring.” Wilbur Ross

He told of shooting over the top of the body of a Lieutenant he thought was dead. But the man was not dead, and it was the Lieutenant’s remembrance of the actions of Private Wilbur Ross that led to his Medal of Honor. Ross left the Army in 1964 as a Master Sergeant.

He grew up hunting and fishing, and could light a match with his .22 rifle. Those skills served him well. But the amount of steel cojones it took to keep firing in the midst of 9 attacks of the enemy is the stuff of legend. Rest In Peace, Wilbur Ross.