World War II veteran ready to turn 100 with family and friends

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Milton Ross served in World War II in the U.S. Navy. On Nov. 18, he will celebrate his 100th birthday.

“My wife, Dorris, passed Nov. 12, 2012. We raised three sons, Steven, a dean at Ohio University, Theodore, a retired CPA and William, medical research, and the family grew to three grandchildren,” said Ross, who lives in Wycliffe Country Club in Wellington.

Milton’s three sons, his grandchildren and a few other family members will come to Wycliffe for Thanksgiving week to celebrate his birthday. On one evening, they plan to have a private party at the clubhouse.

Ross was born Nov. 18, 1921, in New York City on 64th Street near a small laundry, where Lincoln Center stands today.

“My early years were spent in an orphanage and were moderately happy,” he said.

At age 18 from his home in Orange, New Jersey, Ross enlisted in the U.S. Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. After basic training, he was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger as an ordinary seaman.

“Our first port was Newfoundland where we became part of a convoy of 30 ships going to Russia — the first of the war of its size,” Ross said. “We were delivering war material and supplies to Murmansk. When we returned to Newfoundland, we were down to a convoy of only nine ships.”

The carrier was ordered to Bermuda where they loaded 50 fighter planes, led by Jimmy Doolittle, and sailed to Dakar, Africa, where they were offloaded.

The USS Ranger took on Navy fighter planes who fought German forces in Africa, then moved to Casablanca. There they sunk the battleship Jean Bart.

“I was there…saw it capsized,” he said. “We had cabbage and powdered eggs from a pot on the flight deck to celebrate!”

The USS Ranger moved to Scotland, joining the British fleet late in 1943.

On July 11, 1944, the USS Ranger departed from Norfolk, Virginia, transited the Panama Canal five days later and sailed to San Diego, arriving there on July 25. After embarking the men and aircraft of Night Fighting Squadron 102 and nearly 1,000 U.S. Marines, Ranger steamed for Hawaiian waters on July 28, reaching Pearl Harbor on Aug. 3.  During the next three months, Ranger conducted night carrier flight training operations out of Pearl Harbor.

Ranger departed from Pearl Harbor on Oct. 13 to train new naval pilots for combat duty. Operating out of San Diego under the Commander, Fleet Air, Ranger continued training air groups and squadrons along the California coast throughout the remainder of the war. Ranger was the only pre-war U.S. carrier never to have engaged Japanese forces in battle.

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The United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.

Emperor Hirohito surrender speech was broadcast at noon Japan Standard Time on Aug. 15, 1945, officially known as V-J Day.

“I was discharged from the Navy with the rank of chief petty officer in January 1946,” Ross said. “I attended Rutgers University and became a pharmacist, married and raised a family.”

Ross enjoys many interests: hunting, fishing, reading, birdwatching, vodka, dining, golf and carpentry. He is an admirer of Golda Meier and favors people who are patient and honest.

“My dad combined being an engaged father, devoted husband and loyal friend,” said Ross’ son Ted. “As a father, whether fishing, hunting or a reliable spectator at our many sports activity, he thoroughly enjoyed being with his three sons. He met his wife Dorris shortly after his return from service. Married for over 60 years, they loved the chance to travel. China, Brazil, Europe. There was even an 8,000-mile road trip from Wycliffe to the Alaskan outback. What a schlep!”

His lifelong friends from his days as a pharmacist or the many connections at Wycliffe have brought him joy. 

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