Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army

Wilburn Kirby Ross

  • Rank: Private (Highest Rank: Master Sergeant)
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Weapons Platoon, Company G, 2d Battalion, 30th Infantry,
    3d Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: October 30, 1944
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: near St. Jacques, France

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the 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 machine-gun 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 machine gun alone, holding off six 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 machine-gun ammunition belt. Pvt. 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, Pvt. 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 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 singlehandedly, 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, 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.

Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Strunk, McCreary County, Kentucky
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: April 23, 1945

    Zepman Stadium, Nuremberg, Germany presented by Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch III

  • Born: May 12, 1922, Strunk, McCreary County, KY, United States
  • Died: May 9, 2017, Tacoma, WA, United States
  • Buried: Tahoma National Cemetery, Kent, WA, United States

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