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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Washington D. Ross
Lt. Col. Washington D. Ross was born in 1919 in Mount Bayou, Mississippi. His family moved to Ashland, Kentucky where he attended elementary school. He graduated from Ironton High School in Ohio. In 1941, he graduated with honors from Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, earning an undergraduate degree. He obtained his private pilot's license through the Civilian Pilot Training Program.
Ross' first employment was as a storekeeper at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia. He then reported to Tuskegee Army Air Base in Tuskegee, Alabama for aviation cadet training, Class 43-1. In 1943, he was commissioned second lieutenant and sent to Selfridge Field in Michigan for overseas training. He was taken by ship to Oran, Algeria and flown to Naples. Ross was then assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, which was stationed in Ramitelli, Italy.
Ross was first assigned to fly patrol missions in the P-39 Airacobra. After being transferred to the 15th Air Force, he flew P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustang fighters, protecting bombers on long-range missions for a total of 63 sorties and missions. He escorted bombers on missions to southern Germany and Austria, including to the cities of Schweinfurt, Salzburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Nurnberg, and Heidelberg. Ross flew one low-level mission, attacking anti-aircraft weapons in southern France during which his aircraft was hit by small arms fire.
Upon completion of his overseas duty, he was assigned to Tuskegee Army Air Base as a twin-engine instructor for North American B-25 Mitchell bombers. When Tuskegee closed, he was transferred to Lockbourne Air Force Base in Ohio and honorably discharged after four years of active duty.
He worked for 10 years as a clerk for the U.S. Postal Service. In addition to his undergraduate degree, his education includes graduate study at Wayne State University, a bachelor's degree and master's degree in business administration from D' tre University in Detroit, and a master's degree from the University of Detroit. He was employed for 29 years as a teacher and department head by the Detroit Board of Education, retiring in 1984.
Ross served with the United States Air Force Reserve for 20 years, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He is an active member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Speakers Bureau and a life member of the Reserve Officers Association. He remains active with a number of educational and alumni organizations.
Lt. Col. Washington D. Ross was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on May 19, 2012.