The city of Bend, Oregon, the State of Oregon, and the nation is mourning the loss of the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, Bob Maxwell, who passed away recently at the age of 98. The news of his passing was written up in the Bend Bulletin, the local newspaper.
Maxwell was born on October 26, 1920 into a Quaker family. During WWII, he received his draft notice and was drafted into the U.S. Army. He declined the Conscientious Objector status that was available to him and entered the Army training in Colorado. He was trained to string and to maintain communications and telephone wiring in battlefield situations.
Maxwell was doing this in January of 1944 on the Italian front when he was wounded the first time. He was hit in the leg by shrapnel during an intense artillery shelling from the Germans and spent a couple of months recovering from his wound at a military hospital in Naples, Italy.
On Sept. 7, 1944, Maxwell was with his unit in a battle at a place called Bescanon, France. During this battle, a German grenade landed near him and his squad members.
Without hesitation, he grabbed a heavy blanket and threw himself on top of the grenade saving his squad mates from the lethal explosion.
Maxwell was severely injured by the blast, but the blanket helped to absorb much of the impact. For his actions on that occasion, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.”
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This apparently was not the only incident where Maxwell acted in heroic fashion in defense of his fellow soldiers. Over the course of his time fighting in Europe he was also awarded two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, along with the French Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur.
Maxwell did not stop serving others after the war either. He became an auto mechanic in Bend, Oregon on his return home. He taught shop classes in auto repair and Bend High School and at two local Community Colleges over his lifetime. He did all of this without even having a high school diploma himself.
He was able to finally receive his high school diploma at Bend High School in 2000.
Bob Maxwell was a common man with an uncommon devotion to serving others. His courage in battle was matched by his humility. His passing brings us closer to that time when there will be no more WWII veterans among us.
At the time of his death he held the honor of being the oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor. His life of service both in WWII and in his long life after the war is a model for all of us.
The Veterans Site sends its condolences to the Maxwell family. We thank Bob Maxwell for his noble service to the nation both in WWII and to his community throughout his long life.
Rest in Peace. You will not be forgotten.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.