Robert Maxwell: A living piece of World War II and COCC history
Robert Maxwell’s accomplishments include jumping on a grenade, receiving the Medal of Honor, and founding the Central Oregon Community College automotive program. Maxwell, who is one of eight living Medal of Honor recipients, was honored for his service by having his photo on a newly released postage stamp.
Maxwell left his hometown of Boise, Idaho, at 21 years old to join the army as a technician.
“I was the battalion wireman, and my job was to string telephone wires to the command post,” Maxwell said.
In September of 1944, Maxwell’s battalion established a command post at Besançon, a city in eastern France near Germany and Switzerland. After the Germans attacked this post on the night of Sept. 7, Maxwell’s life would never be the same.
“I heard a hand grenade come through the fence and land somewhere on the ground,” Maxwell explained, “so I dropped to the ground and that’s the last thing I remember before waking up.”
He covered the blast with his body and saved the lives of his fellow soldiers. Because of this, six months later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“It was dated April 6, 1945, six days before Roosevelt died, but it was presented to me in May,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell moved to Redmond, Oregon, and worked as an automotive mechanic for nine years before moving to Bend to teach automotive technology at Bend Senior High School. Soon after, he was recruited to help establish the automotive technology program at COCC, then known simply as Central Oregon College.
On Veterans’ Day 2013, the United States Postal Service revealed two new stamps honoring all Medal of Honor recipients and featuring Maxwell along with the other 11 living recipients, four of which have passed away since the stamp was designed. One stamp honors those who were part of the the Navy and Marine Corps, and the other stamp honors members of the Army Air Corps.
“It was quite an honor,” Maxwell said.