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World War II hero gets 'Medal of Honor' stamp

FORT LEWIS, Wash. -- A Tacoma-area bus driver who won the Medal of Honor for his heroic deeds in World War II has been presented with the first new U.S. postage stamp designed to recognize the 3,113 winners of the nation's highest award for valor.

Wilburn Ross, 61, who drives a bus for the Veterans Administration Hospital, was located by John Iafrati, the postmaster at Du Pont south of Tacoma, after the U.S. Postal Service issued a call for the man who best exemplified the virtues of the medal's winners.

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As an Army private, machinegunner Ross killed or wounded 58 German soldiers near St. Jacques, France, Oct. 30, 1944, 'with conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty,' according to a citation signed by President Harry S. Truman.

'They gave me the medal in Hitler's stadium at Nuremburg in 1945,' Ross recalled during ceremonies at Fort Lewis' I Corps headquarters to dedicate the new 20-cent 'Medal of Honor' commemorative stamp.

Joined by his wife, Monica, the soft-spoken Ross said he retired from the Army as a master sergeant in 1964, traveled for a time and finally settled in Du Pont, a hamlet surrounded by Fort Lewis.

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His last combat duty came in Korea, where he was wounded in the leg on his first day in the field in 1950 -- the fourth time he was wounded in the line of duty.

'I was wounded in Italy, Sicily, France and Korea,' he said, 'but I receive no disability pay.'

Ross, originally from Kentucky, was a member of Company G, 30th Infantry, 3rd Division, 7th Army, when he won the Medal of Honor.

The citation signed by Truman said Ross's company had lost 55 of its 88 men during an attack on an entrenched company of elite German mountain troops near St. Jacques. Ross took a position 30 feet in front of his company's remaining riflemen and almost single-handedly held off the full force of seven German counterattacks.

At one point, enemy soldiers crawled to within 12 feet of Ross and tried to kill him with hand grenades.

He ran out of ammunition, but stood his ground as the Germans advanced while the American riflemen fixed their bayonets. At the last minute, more ammunition arrived, and Ross opened fire, killing 40 Germans and breaking the assault.

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