Robert D. Maxwell
Robert Dale Maxwell
Maxwell in 2006
|Born||October 26, 1920|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942 – 1945|
|Rank||Technician Fifth Grade|
|Unit||Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards|| Medal of Honor|
Silver Star (2)
Purple Heart (2)
Robert Dale Maxwell (born October 26, 1920) is a former United States Army combat soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration for valor—the Medal of Honor—for his heroism in France during World War II. He is the oldest of four living Medal of Honor recipients from that war.
Maxwell was born on October 26, 1920, in Boise, Idaho. His parents separated when he was a baby and Maxwell was raised by his grandparents on their farm in Quinter, Kansas. He later lived in Colorado.
Maxwell was drafted into the Army and entered service from Larimer County, Colorado, in June 1941. He was offered and refused "conscientious objector" status by the army for being a Quaker. He received basic training at Camp Roberts, California and training in advanced infantry tactics at Camp Meade in Maryland.
In February 1942, he was sent overseas and landed in North Africa at Casablanca with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He was assigned to Headquarters Company as a battalion "wire man"; he carried a heavy roll of cable and was tasked with stringing phone lines to the command post. He began the war armed with a M1 Garand rifle, but was later reclassified as a non-combatant and carried only a .45 caliber pistol.
After participating in the North African Campaign with his unit, this was followed by the Allied invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943, marching to Palermo, and on to Messina. The 7th Infantry then landed at Salerno in September shortly after the Allied invasion of mainland Italy and fought northwards to an area near Cassino. During the early stages of the subsequent Battle of Anzio in January 1944, Private First Class Maxwell repaired damaged wire lines to maintain communication on January 31 under intense artillery fire for over three hours and was wounded in the leg. For his actions under fire that day, he was awarded the Silver Star. He spent the next few months recovering at a hospital in Naples.
He rejoined his unit in time for the invasion of southern France (Operation Dragoon) in August 1944 and the following advance inland. On September 7, near Besançon in eastern France, Technician Fifth Grade (Corporal) Maxwell while under enemy fire risked his life in order to protect the lives of other soldiers around from an enemy hand grenade. He survived his wounds from the grenade blast and was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 6, 1945 which was presented to him from Major General Clarence Danielson at the Camp Carson Convalescent Hospital in Colorado on May 12. He also received a Silver Star (oak leaf cluster) which was awarded to him for an earlier action on September 7, 1944.
After the war, he enrolled in vocational school for two years in Eugene, Oregon to be an auto mechanic. After his training, he worked a two-year apprenticeship for an Oldsmobile car dealership in Redmond, Oregon. During this time, he met Beatrice his wife to be, and they married on August 12, 1951. He then taught auto mechanics at Bend High School in Bend, Oregon.
From 1966 through 1986, Maxwell taught auto mechanics at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. He is also credited with helping to establish a similar program at Central Oregon Community College in Bend. He was honored in 1970 as one of 5,000 outstanding educators.
In 2000, at the age of 79, he received his High School Diploma from Bend Senior High School.
In 2012, he suffered a minor stroke, but recovered after only a few short days with only minor loss of functionality of his right hand. He continues as the director of the non-profit Bend Heroes Foundation.
Maxwell resides in Bend, Oregon, and is the only living Medal of Honor recipient in that state.
Maxwell's military awards and decorations include:
|Combat Infantry Badge|
|Medal of Honor|
|Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster||Bronze Star Medal||Purple Heart with Oak leaf Cluster|
|Army Good Conduct Medal||American Defense Service Medal||American Campaign Medal|
|European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
with one silver and two 3/16" bronze stars
|World War II Victory Medal||French Legion of Honor (Chevalier-Knight)|
Medal of Honor citation
Maxwell's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
Rank and organization: Technician Fifth Grade, U.S. Army, 7th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division
Place and date: Near Besançon, France, 7 September 1944
Entered service at: Larimer County, Colo.
G.O. No. 24, 6 April 1945
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 7 September 1944, near Besancon, France. Technician 5th Grade Maxwell and 3 other soldiers, armed only with .45 caliber automatic pistols, defended the battalion observation post against an overwhelming onslaught by enemy infantrymen in approximately platoon strength, supported by 20mm. flak and machinegun fire, who had infiltrated through the battalion's forward companies and were attacking the observation post with machinegun, machine pistol, and grenade fire at ranges as close as 10 yards. Despite a hail of fire from automatic weapons and grenade launchers, Technician 5th Grade Maxwell aggressively fought off advancing enemy elements and, by his calmness, tenacity, and fortitude, inspired his fellows to continue the unequal struggle. When an enemy hand grenade was thrown in the midst of his squad, Technician 5th Grade Maxwell unhesitatingly hurled himself squarely upon it, using his blanket and his unprotected body to absorb the full force of the explosion. This act of instantaneous heroism permanently maimed Technician 5th Grade Maxwell, but saved the lives of his comrades in arms and facilitated maintenance of vital military communications during the temporary withdrawal of the battalion's forward headquarters.
Namings and honors
- In 1984, a new concrete bridge which one of two wooden 1944 bridges built and named after Major General Alexander Patch at Camp Abbot (not there anymore) across the Deschutes River south of Bend, Oregon, was renamed after Maxwell. The Robert Maxwell bridge was renamed and dedicated as the "Robert D. Maxwell Veterans Memorial Bridge" on September 11, 2004; the other wooden "General Patch Bridge" was demolished in 2008. Patch who commanded the U.S. Seventh Army during World War II, had recommended Maxwell for the Medal of Honor.
- In 2012, Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, named its student veterans center after Maxwell.
- In November 2013, Maxwell's photo was one of 12 photos of service uniformed Medal of Honor recipients on the cover sheet of a U.S. Postal Service "World War II Medal of Honor Forever Stamp" packet of 20 Medal of Honor stamps. His photograph is the last one located on the sheet.
- "Robert D. Maxwell: The Oldest Living Recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor – Write to Win!". write-to-win.com.
- "veteran hero – Write to Win!". write-to-win.com.
- Collier, Peter (2006). Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. New York: Workman Publishing Company. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-57965-314-9.
- "Technician Fifth Grade Robert D. Maxwell, USA (September 7, 1944)". 7 September 2014.
- Medal of Honor. Artisan Books. 2011 – via Google Books.
- "Medal of Honor Recipients - World War II (M–S)". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
- Joslin, Les (2016). Legendary Locals of Bend. Arcadia Publishing – via Google Books.
- "WWII Medal of Honor vet to dedicate student center at LCC Nov.5". Lane Community College Newsroom. Oct 25, 2012. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- Burns, Keisha (May 28, 2009). "Lawmakers OK 'WWII Veterans' designation for Hwy. 97". Bend, Oregon: KTVZ. Archived from the original on November 21, 2016. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
- (CMH), U.S. Army Center of Military History. "3d Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment - Lineage and Honors - U.S. Army Center of Military History (CMH)". history.army.mil.
- Group, Bend Marketing. "Robert D. Maxwell". Robert D. Maxwell.
- "News Stories from the Archives". www.homeofheroes.com.
- Interface, Saxotech (8 November 2013). "Robert Maxwell honored".