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Donald K. Ross

Born: Beverly, Kansas, December 8, 1910. Died: Bremerton, Washington, May 27, 1992

Donald K. Ross was born in the Lincoln County community of Beverly. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1929. He was first in his class in machinist mate school and was assigned to the USS Henderson.

Ross saw his first action while serving on the USS Relief, a hospital ship, in Nicaragua in 1931. He served on the minesweeper USS Brant, destroyer USS Simpson, cruiser USS Minneapolis, and was warrant officer machinist on the USS Nevada.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, the Nevada was badly damaged. Ross battled smoke, heat and fire in the effort get power to the ship underway. After ordering his men to seek safety, Ross performed his duties until blinded by smoke and rendered unconscious from exhaustion. After being rescued and resuscitated, he didn’t seek medical treatment but instead went back to his post until being forced to abandon it by his superiors. The Nevada was the only U.S. ship that went back into action during the attack. For his distinguished service, Ross was awarded the Medal of Honor April 18, 1942, by Admiral Chester Nimitz. He was the first World War II recipient of the medal.

Ross' Medal of Honor citation reads:

When his station in the forward dynamo room became almost untenable due to smoke, steam and heat "he forced his men to leave that station and performed all the duties himself until blinded and unconscious. Upon being rescued and resuscitated, he returned and secured the forward dynamo room and proceeded to the after dynamo room, where he was later again rendered unconscious by exhaustion. Upon recovering consciousness, he returned to his station, where he remained until directed to abandon it.

Ross was involved in the Battle of Normandy and Operation Dragoon. He reached the rank of lieutenant by the end of World War II. He was promoted to commander in 1954. He retired from active duty in 1956 after 27 years of service, promoted finally to captain for his combat awards.

In 2011 a portion of K-18 highway from U.S. 81 to the western boundary of Lincoln County was named the “Medal of Honor Recipient Donald K. Ross Memorial Highway.” Governor Sam Brownback, in making the dedication, said of Ross:

His courage in one of the darkest hours of American history exemplifies the very best of the Kansas spirit. Without the dedication and sacrifice of an entire generation of men just like Mr. Ross, none of us would be where we are today.

Entry: Ross, Donald K.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2011

Date Modified: February 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.