Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, September 15, 2017

Remembering a Veteran: Col. Hiram Bearss, USMC

Col Hiram I. Bearss, had the most varied career of any officer of the AEF. As a temporary colonel he arrived in command of the Base Detachment of the 5th Marines. He had already been approved for a Medal of Honor for services in the Philippines in 1901, which was awarded in 1934. With duty at St. Nazaire he was also made CO of the base, including several U.S. Army labor companies. When Col Doyen assumed command of the newly created 2nd Division, Bearss commanded the 5th Regiment of Marines, then the 4th Brigade. "Hiking Hiram," as he was known, was relieved in February 1918 when Wendell Neville arrived to command the 5th  and Doyen returned to the brigade. 

Bearss was placed in command of the 3d Bn, 9th Infantry of the 2nd Division, especially to train this polyglot unit composed of mainly recent immigrants. He did a fine job and later became CO of the 9th Infantry at Toul. He was assigned to duty with the 2nd Division and then to the 6th Marines as assistant to the regimental commander. Because he was over in grade he eventually was transferred as CO of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division. 

He led them admirably at St. Mihiel, where the 26th Division helped close the salient, and later at Marchville where he earned a DSC.“His indomitable courage and leadership led to the complete success of the attack by two battalions of his regiment at Marcheville and Raiville. During the attacks these two towns changed hands four times, finally remaining in our possession when the enemy withdrew. Under terrific machine gun and artillery fire he was the first to enter Marcheville, where he directed operations. Later, upon finding his party completely surrounded, he personally assisted in fighting the enemy off with pistol and hand grenades.”  Later,  he assumed command of the 51st Brigade, 26th Division. 

Retiring as a brigadier general, he was also the recipient of the Army & Navy Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Honor (officer); CdG, Palm and a CdG, Silver; and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. A Fletcher-class destroyer, commissioned in 1944, was named after him

Bearss died 28 August 1938, in an automobile collision in Columbia City, Indiana, while en route from Chicago to Peru, Indiana. He was buried at Peru in Mount Hope Cemetery

Details courtesy of George Clark


  1. Was he the grandfather of the NPS historian emeritus Edwin C Bearss?

  2. Hiking Hiram Bearss. He never took a desk job without written protest according to the Corps legend.

  3. I wondered the same thing that Herbert Schiller asks. Would love to know.

  4. According to Jack Waugh in his short biography of Ed Bearss (Edwin Cole Bearss: History's Pied Piper), Hike'em Bearss was a 3rd cousin of Ed:
    "The family line on his father's side also ran to steel-and to fame. One of Ed's third cousins was a legendary American military hero, a hard fighting, heavily deco­rated U.S. Marine colonel named Hiram, who was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism in the Philippine Insurrection in the Spanish-American War." (from page 8)

  5. Columbia City is east of Peru by at least 40 miles. He would have not driven through it if he was driving from Chicago to Peru