Oregon Medal of Honor Highway

The Oregon legislature took a big step forward in honoring our Veterans last year.

House Bill 2100 established Highway 20 as the Oregon Medal of Honor Highway. The route now honors 26 of Oregon’s Medal of Honor recipients with a series of signs located in 12 cities throughout the state.

The Medal of Honor recipients represent every branch of the military and served in eight different conflicts. From the Civil War to Vietnam, these Veterans are endemic of Oregon’s rich history of courage, selflessness, and sacrifice. Here are a few profiles of some of these heroes:

Profiles of Heroes

The following stories are just a small sample of the sacrifice that Oregon’s Veterans have shouldered. All of these heroes showed enormous courage fighting, and in some cases, sacrificing their lives for our country.

Robert D. Maxwell: Robert D. Maxwell was drafted into the Army in 1941. Despite being a Quaker, Maxwell refused conscientious objector status and instead went forward with basic training at Camp Roberts, CA. Maxwell was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division and fought with them in North Africa, Sicily, and Southern France. It was on September 7th, 1944 near Besancon, France where Robert Maxwell’s courageous actions earned him the Medal of Honor. Maxwell found himself defending a battalion observation post with three other Soldiers. Armed only with a pistol, Maxwell faced a platoon of enemy infantry with machine guns, grenades, and a 20mm flak cannon. He and his comrades fought valiantly in close quarters, staving off the much larger force. Finally, an enemy hand grenade landed in their position. Without hesitating, Maxwell dove on the grenade and absorbed the impact, saving the lives of his comrades. Robert Maxwell survived his injuries and is now living in Bend as the oldest surviving Medal of Honor winner.

Arthur Jackson: Arthur Jackson graduated from Grant High School in Portland and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942. After attending recruit training, Jackson joined the 1st Marine Division and fought in the Cape Gloucester Campaign, the Battle of Peleliu and the Battle of Okinawa. It was his actions on Peleliu, however, that earned Arthur Jackson the Medal of Honor. On September 18th, 1944 Jackson’s platoon was held up by fire coming from Japanese pillboxes. Ignoring his own safety, Jackson charged a pillbox containing 35 Japanese troops, pouring machine gun fire into the position during his advance. Once he arrived at the pillbox, Jackson destroyed it with grenades and explosives. He then proceeded to clear a series of smaller fortifications. In total, Jackson destroyed 12 pillboxes and saved the advance of his platoon. After World War Two, Arthur Jackson continued to serve in the Marine Corps in China and later served in the Army Reserve during the Korean War.

John Noble Holcomb: John Noble Holcomb was born in Baker, Oregon and joined the Army in 1966. After basic training, Holcomb was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. On December 3rd, 1968 Holcomb’s company landed in a field near Quâ’n Loì, Vietnam. While organizing into a defensive position, they were attacked on three sides by a battalion of enemy troops. Ignoring heavy enemy fire, Holcomb moved among his squad and directed their efforts against the enemy. When his machine gunner was killed, John Holcomb grabbed the weapon, moved forward, and successfully suppressed the attack. He continued to suppress the enemy throughout several counter-attacks, while also moving his wounded squad mates to safety. Finally, an enemy rocket hit Holcomb, severely wounding him. Despite these wounds, Holcomb managed to organize the surviving members of his platoon and called for supporting fire to repel the enemy once and for all. John Holcomb gave the ultimate sacrifice and died of his wounds shortly after.

Here at G.I. Junk we salute all of the Medal of Honor recipients honored on the Oregon Medal of Honor highway, as well as all of the Veterans who call Oregon home. Do you know any Veterans? Make sure to thank them for their sacrifice today!

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