We’ve received the news that the oldest Medal of Honor Recipient, World War II veteran Robert D. Maxwell, has passed away on May 11, 2019 in Oregon. The death was confirmed on Monday by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.
Robert D. Maxwell earned the Medal of Honor, the US highest military decoration for valor, on September 7, 1944 in Besancon, France during World War II. Serving as Technician Fifth Grade in the 7th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Besides earning the Medal of Honor, he also was awarded 2x Silver Star, 2x Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and two French awards: Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur.
His Medal of Honor citation reads:
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.
Maxwell was born October 26, 1920, in Boise, Idaho and was raised by his grandparents on their farm in Kansas after his parents separated. Drafted into the U.S. Army, where he entered service in Colorado. In February 1942, he was sent overseas and took part in the landing at Casablanca, North Africa.
After the North African Campaign, he took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. In January 1944, during the Battle of Anzio, PFC Maxwell became wounded and was awarded the Silver Star for actions performed on January 31. After spending months in hospital, he rejoined his unit during Operation Dragoon in August 1944.
A few weeks later on September 7, while under enemy fire, he risked his life to protect the lives of other soldier around him, after an enemy hand grenade was thrown in the midst of his squad. He threw himself, using his blanket, on the enemy grenade to absord the full explosion. Luckily he survived the ordeal and was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 6, 1945 by Major General Clarence Danielson in Colorado.
Robert D. Maxwell passed away at the age of 98.