Ross, Richard L. (P2, C3, L42)
Captain Richard Lee Ross, 31, of Prospect, Jefferson County, died on 1 October 1950 in an aircraft crash near West Point, Kentucky. He was leading a flight of four F-51 fighters on a training mission. The crash occurred at about 10:20 a.m. on a Sunday, when his plane went out of control at approximately 1,000 feet and crashed into the side of a hill. He was a member of the 165th Fighter Squadron (Single Engine), Kentucky Air National Guard. The unit had been ordered into federal service and were to report to Godman Air Field, Fort Knox on October 10th. He was flying an F-51D on a training flight - aircraft number 44-73265. There was no immediate explanation for the crash and an investigation would have been carried out. No documentation on the results of the investigation have yet been discovered.
Ross was an experienced and decorated World War II pilot with experience in P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 aircraft. He served in the South West Pacific Theatre for 19 months and flew 133 combat missions as well as serving as Assistant Squadron Operations Officer, Squadron Operations Officer and Assistant Group Operations Officer while serving with the 39th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force in New Guinea, Dutch East Indies and the Philippines. His awards and decorations included the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Atlantic Pacific Service Medal and the Philippines Liberation Medal.
The 35th Fighter Group participated in long range attacks on Japanese bases in the southern Philippines, on Halmahera and on Borneo from New Guinea. The group moved to Morotai in the Dutch East Indies in September 1944. In January 1945 the group provided support US ground forces on Luzon. It also flew a number of fighter sweeps over Formosa and the Chinese coast. It converted to the P-51 Mustang in March 1945. In June 1945 the group moved to Okinawa and attacked targets in Kyushu and Korea. Ross returned to the United States in May 1945 and was stationed in Texas and Alabama with his unit before leaving active duty on 26 November 1945. He continued in the Army Air Corps Reserve as a Captain after active duty until his federal recognition as a captain in the Kentucky Air National Guard in February 1947.
A native of Louisville, Ross moved to the LaGrange area with his family when he was young and graduated from Liberty High School, Prospect. Ross was the son of Elbert L. and Ora Hayes Ross. Before the war he worked at L & N Railroad Company at 9th and Broadway in Louisville from May 1941 to September 1942 as a rate clerk. Ross returned to the Louisville & Nashville Railroad after he left active duty and worked in the accounting department.
Ross enlisted in the Army Air Corps Reserve on 1 May 1942 at Bowman Field, Louisville as a Private and began his military and pilot training. He married Bessie Jeffries at some point but it is not known exactly when and they had one son, Richard Lee Ross, Jr. born in June 1943. Ross was sent to Fort Meyers, Florida to continue his training on 28 July 1943 as a 2nd Lieutenant some 30 days after his son's birth. He left the United States for New Guinea in November 1943. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant 12 May 1944 and to Captain in January 1945.
Ross was one of the earliest members of the 165th Fighter Squadron of the Kentucky Air National Guard when it received federal recognition.
On 15 Nov 1946 he was appointed as the Operations Officer for the 165th Fighter Squadron. He was granted federal recognition as a Captain and member of the Kentucky Air National Guard on 16 February 1947.
During May 1947 25 F-51 Mustangs arrived at Standiford Field to be flown by the 165th Squadron. On 26 April 1947 he was appointed commander of the 165th Fighter Squadron. On 1 July 1 Jul 1947 he was appointed as Flight Leader for Flight D of the 165th Fighter Squadron and assigned an additional duty as Assistant Operations Officer for the squadron. He was relieved of his additional duty on 20 Jul 1947 and Lee Merkel took over the role.
On 2 November 1947 he was removed as Flight Leader and appointed as Operations Officer for the 165th Fighter Squadron. On 1 May 1948 he was appointed as Flight Leader for Flight A of the 165th Fighter Squadron.
Ross was a member of the unit when it won the first Spaatz Trophy as an outstanding flying unit of the Wing competing against units from Ohio, West Virginia. Ross may have flown one of the Kentucky Mustangs that participated in the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman in Washington, DC.
Ross is buried at the Valley of Rest Cemetery in La Grange.
The Courier-Journal Louisville, Kentucky 2 Oct 1950, Mon · Page 1
Messenger-Inquirer Owensboro, Kentucky 2 Oct 1950, Mon · Page 2
Ross is pictured flying one of these aircraft in July 1944
CAPTION: A Combat Squadron of P-47 Thunderbolts - 39th FS, 35th FG, 5th AAF - Over the Markham Valley, New Guinea - July 28, 1944 - Leading the squadron, Capt. Leland P. Vining is followed by flight leaders Capt. William L. Urquhart, Capt. Wayne P. Rothgeb, and Capt. Lewis Lockhart. Following the squadron and flight leaders are Lts. Robert A. Mittlestadt, Richard L. Ross, Kenneth M. Dunn, Howard G. Newmann, Carl A. Rymer, James C. Steele, Robert Rohrs, Marcus Trout, Robert W. Querns, Forrest E. Lynn, Frederick G. Tobi, and James J. Querns. This photograph was taken from a Douglas P-70 Nighthawk flown by the 39th FS Squadron Commander, Captain Richard T. Cella.