- WW II
Colonel Maurice Alexander Belisle was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on 13 April 1913. He was the second son in a family of eight children. During the difficult times following the great depression, he put off his education after high school to find work and assist his family. As a result, Maurice entered college a bit late at the age of 25. He graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1941. While at the University, he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and a member of the ROTC Scabbard and Blade.
Shortly after World War II began, he joined the Army as an officer candidate. He was assigned to the First Infantry Division, the “Big Red One.” He spent nearly four years in the European theater during the war. His first combat involved “Operation Torch,” the invasion of North Africa in which he landed in the first wave of boats. During military operations in the vicinity of Raul El De Karlee, Tunisia, under heavy enemy fire, he deployed his company so effectively that the enemy was forced to withdraw from a fortified position. This action resulted in his being awarded the Silver Star Medal.
Later in 1943, he again landed in the first wave of boats; this time at Gela Beach, during the invasion of Sicily. During combat operations in the vicinity of Barrafranca, he braved heavy enemy machine gun and mortar fire to reorganize his company for a successful counterattack. As a result of this action, he was awarded a second Silver Star Medal. In early 1944, he was sent to England to prepare for the invasion of the continent later that year.
On 6 June, he led his company ashore on “Dog Green” sector, Omaha Beach. During that landing, near the town of Colleville-Sur-Mer, he braved heavy enemy sniper fire to provide first aid to a seriously wounded officer. For his actions, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor, “V” device. Later that year, he participated in the Battle of the Bulge and the final push to defeat Nazi Germany. He left the European Theater as a Major. His additional WWII awards included a second Bronze Star Medal and numerous campaign ribbons.
Following the war, Colonel Belisle left the Army to pursue a career in teaching. However, his love for the military brought him back to active duty in 1947 to continue a successful career. Shortly after returning to the Army, he married the former Jeanne McGee Cassidy.
As the family grew during the ensuing years, COL Belisle served in various capacities at several Army posts and the Pentagon. In the mid-1950’s, he served as the Chief Advisor to the Turkish Infantry School in Ankara after which he attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Following those tours, he was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) on the island of Formosa. While on that assignment, he served as the US Advisor on the offshore island of Matsu during periods of significant international tensions. These tensions included massive buildups of Chinese troops along the beach adjacent to the offshore islands.
After professional schooling at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to Fort Ord, California for one year before returning to the Infantry School in Fort Benning as a staff officer. He completed a tour of duty in the Army’s Inspector General’s office in Washington, DC prior to returning to URI to serve as the Professor of Military Science (PMS) for the university’s ROTC program. COL Belisle retired from that position in 1967. Along with his combat awards during a distinguished military career, he was also awarded the Legion of Merit and the Army Commendation Medal.
After retirement from the Army, Colonel Belisle remained at URI until 1976 in the capacity of Assistant Dean. He relocated to Florida with his wife Jeanne in 1980. Living in the Tampa area, they enjoyed travel, golf and the friendships they developed in the community. Colonel Belisle was married to Jeanne for 47 years. His beloved wife Jeanne passed away in 1995. Colonel Maurice A. Belisle passed away in 2009. They left three sons, Kenneth, Rear Admiral, USN, (Ret); Thomas, Colonel, USAF, (Ret); and John; and daughter, Maureen Powell.
Colonel Maurice Belisle was a leader who possessed strong moral character and extraordinary integrity. He wore his uniform with great dignity. His example was present for all to see and provided honest and genuine guidance to his family and countless soldiers and cadets. His exemplary devotion to duty, personal bravery and outstanding leadership are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon his country, his family and the University of Rhode Island.