Friday, February 17, 2012

Hiram I. Bearss

Hiram Iddings Bearss (April 13, 1875 – August 28, 1938) was an officer of the United States Marine Corps who received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Philippine-American War and the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor in World War I. During World War I, Bearss served in France with the 4th Marine Brigade, and commanded the 102nd Infantry at Marcheville in 1918, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Bearss received 19 military decorations in his 22 years service including several for his actions in combat. These include decorations from the United States and other countries. From the United States he received the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the Army Distinguished Service Medal. In addition to these decorations he also received awards from other countries for his conduct in battle from France, Belgium and Italy. From France he received the Légion d'honneur officer class and the Fourragère. He also received the silver Croix de guerre with two palms from France as well as the Croix de guerre from Italy and Belgium. He also received campaign medals for the various wars and battles he fought in which included the Navy Expeditionary Medal with three numerals, Spanish Campaign Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, Mexican Service Medal, Dominican Campaign Medal, World War I Victory Medal with battle clasps for Aisne, Aisne-Marne and St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne defensive clasp.

For extraordinary heroism and eminent and conspicuous conduct in battle at the junction of the Cadacan and Sohoton Rivers, Samar, P. I., November 17, 1901. Colonel Bearss, then Captain, second in command of the column upon their uniting ashore in the Sohoton region, made a surprise attack on the fortified cliffs and capturing and destroying a powder magazine, 40 lantacas (guns), rice, food and cuartels. Due to his courage, intelligence, discrimination and zeal, he successfully led his men up the cliffs [by] means of bamboo ladders to a height of 200 feet. The cliffs were of soft stone of volcanic origin, in the nature of pumice and were honeycombed with caves. Tons of rocks were suspended in platforms held in position by vine cables (known as bejuco) in readiness to be precipitated upon people below. After driving the insurgents from their position which was almost impregnable, being covered with numerous trails lined with poisoned spears, pits, etc., he led his men across the river, scaled the cliffs on the opposite side, and destroyed the camps there. He and the men under his command overcame incredible difficulties and dangers in destroying positions which according to reports from old prisoners, had taken three years to perfect, were held as a final rallying point, and were never before penetrated by white troops. Captain Bearss also rendered distinguished public service in the presence of the enemy at Quinapundan River, Samar, P. I., on January 19, 1902.

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Colonel Hiram Iddings Bearss (MCSN: 0-1102), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while attached to the 102d Infantry Regiment (Army), 26th Division, A.E.F., in action at Marcheville and Riaville, France, 26 September 1918. Colonel Bearss' indomitable courage and leadership led to the complete success of the attack by two battalions of his regiment on Marcheville and Riaville. During the attacks these two towns changed hands four times, finally remaining in our possession until the troops were ordered to withdraw. Under terrific machine-gun and artillery fire, Colonel Bearss 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.

The United States Navy named a Fletcher-class destroyer in his honor. The USS Bearss (DD-654) was launched on July 25, 1943 by Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation of Chickasaw, Alabama. The ship was sponsored by General Bearss widow and commissioned April 12, 1944.

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