World War II veteran Bob Maxwell, the nation's oldest Medal of Honor recipient, died Saturday in Bend, Oregon, more than seven decades after grabbing a blanket and throwing himself on a German hand grenade in France to save his squad mates. He was 98. The death was confirmed Monday by US Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, who said Maxwell represented the "best of what Oregon and America have to offer." Maxwell earned the nation's highest military honor while fighting in Besancon, France, on Sept. 7, 1944. The bomb severely injured him, but the blanket saved his life by absorbing some of the impact. He was also awarded two Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and two French combat awards, reports the AP.
Born on Oct. 26, 1920, in Boise, Idaho, Maxwell was drafted into the Army during World War II. Though he was a Quaker, he declined conscientious objector status and entered the service in Colorado. Trained to string heavy wire for telephone lines at the battlefront, he served in Italy and then France, becoming a technician fifth grade and wearing two stripes—the equivalent of a corporal. Prior to throwing himself on the grenade, Maxwell sustained a leg injury in Italy in January 1944 while maintaining telephone wires under intense artillery fire. He spent several months in a hospital in Naples, returned to his unit, and was sent to France. After the war, Maxwell became a car mechanic and taught classes on auto repair and service at a Bend high school and two community colleges. In 2000, at age 79, he received his high school diploma.
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