Born on October 26, 1920, in Boise, Idaho, Maxwell joined the Army from Larimer County, Colorado. He served overseas as a technician fifth grade with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Assigned as the 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.
With the 7th Infantry, Maxwell took part in the North African Campaign followed by the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943, marching to Palermo and on to Messina. The unit then landed at Salerno shortly after the Allied invasion of mainland Italy and fought northwards to an area near Cassino. Wounded during the early stages of the subsequent Battle of Anzio in January 1944, Maxwell 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, Maxwell smothered the blast of an enemy hand grenade with his body to protect those around him. He survived his wounds and seven months later, on April 6, 1945, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Medal of Honor citation
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 24 (April 6, 1945) Action Date: 7-Sep-44; Service: Army; Rank: Technician Fifth Grade; Company: Headquarters Company; Battalion: 3d Battalion; Regiment: 7th Infantry; Division: 3d Infantry Division
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Technician Fifth Grade Robert Dale Maxwell, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 7 September 1944, while serving with Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division, in action near Besancon, France. Technician Fifth Grade Maxwell and three 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 20-mm. 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 ten yards. Despite a hail of fire from automatic weapons and grenade launchers, Technician Fifth 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 Fifth 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 Fifth 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.
First Silver Star citation
General Orders: Headquarters, 3d Infantry Division, General Orders No. 41 (March 23, 1944); Action Date: 31-Jan-44; Service: Army; Rank: Private First Class; Company: Headquarters Company; Battalion: 3d Battalion; Regiment: 7th Infantry; Division: 3d Infantry Division
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Private First Class Robert Dale Maxwell, United States Army, for gallantry in action while serving with Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division. On 31 January 1944, at about 0330 hours, the Battalion OP was heavily shelled by artillery, and fragments were cutting all wire communications. Private First Class Maxwell and several wiremen immediately began repairing the lines. As the concentration became even more intense, it forced the wiremen to take cover. Although shells landed within 20 yards of him, wounding two men seriously and himself receiving a fragment wound in the leg, Private First Class Maxwell alone, and with utter disregard for his personal safety or serious injury, remained on the line maintaining communication by repairing wire lines to the Battalion OP and forward elements. For over three hours he remained under this intense enemy fire. Later he was ordered to the Battalion Aid Station and was immediately evacuated to a hospital. His gallant conduct and devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon himself and the military service.
Second Silver Star citation
General Orders: Headquarters, 3d Infantry Division, General Orders No. 40 (February 9, 1945); Action Date: 7-Sep-44; Service:Army; Rank: Technician Fifth Grade; Company: Headquarters Company; Battalion: 3d Battalion; Regiment: 7th Infantry; Division: 3d Infantry Division
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Technician Fifth Grade Robert Dale Maxwell, United States Army, for gallantry in action while serving with Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division. On 7 September 1944, at 0100 hours, near Besancon, France, Technician Fifth Grade Maxwell voluntarily climbed the roof of a house, under heavy fire from hostile 20-mm. cannon and three machine guns, to lay an overhead wire crossing and thereby provide communications for his Battalion CP. Although still lame from an unhealed leg wound sustained in a previous campaign, Technician Fifth Grade Maxwell climbed to the ridgepole while machine gun bullets cut the roofing at his feet, and looped his wire over a radio antenna. Returning to the ground he volunteered to complete the overhead crossing by climbing a second house top. He proceeded on hands and knees toward the ridgepole, while shells crumbled the roofing a few yards from his foot. By completing his mission, he provided the Battalion Commander with instantaneous communications essential to the direction of the assault companies in the attack.
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