Pierce County Medal of Honor recipient dies at 94: Single-handedly forced back Germans in epic battle

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…

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