b. 23/06/1893 St Louis, Missouri. d. 23/08/1986 La Jolla, California.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 31/10 – 01/11/1919 near Grande Riviere, Haiti.
Herman Henry Hanneken was born on June 23, 1893, in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended the Henrick Preparatory School in that city. He enlisted in the Marine Corps as a private in July 1914, and served the following five years in the enlisted ranks, rising to the rank of sergeant.
The United States invaded Haiti in 1915 and occupied the country for 19 years. In the years following the initial invasion, rebel forces under Charlemagne Péralte conducted an armed resistance to the occupation. On the night of October 31–November 1, 1919, Hanneken assassinated the resistance leader, Péralte. Hanneken was disguised and was led into the rebels camp in Northern Haiti by Jean-Baptiste Conze, one of Péralte’s officers who betrayed the Haitian leader. In the short skirmish that ensued, Hanneken killed Péralte and about 1,200 of his followers were killed, captured, or dispersed. Hanneken subsequently circulated a photograph of Péralte’s half-naked body tied to a door. However, the attempt to intimidate backfired and instead evoked sympathy for Péralte. Hanneken was awarded the Medal of Honor for “extraordinary heroism” and “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in actual conflict with the enemy” and, in December 1919, commissioned as a second lieutenant.
In another raid just five months after the death of Charlemagne, he shot and killed Osiris Joseph, another Haitian rebel leader who succeeded Charlemagne. He was awarded the Navy Cross for this act.
Upon appointment as a second lieutenant he was assigned to train the Haitian police force, the Gendarmerie. He was ordered to return to the United States in April 1920, and following his arrival at the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia, he was assigned to a special course at the Marine Corps Schools.
As a member of the 6th Regiment, First Lieutenant Hanneken sailed for Brazil to participate in the Brazilian Exposition. The unit returned to Quantico in the latter part of 1922, and several months later, he was transferred to the Marine Detachment, USS Antares, where he assumed duties as commanding officer.
In January 1925, he was transferred to the Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, and in April 1927, was detached to the Marine barracks at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Again ordered to foreign shore duty in December 1928, he arrived in Corinto, Nicaragua in January of the following year. Upon his arrival in Nicaragua he was assigned to duty with the 2nd Brigade of Marines. The United States had invaded this Central American country in 1912 and had been occupying it since. A month after his arrival Hanneken captured another leader of the rebel forces resisting the invasion by the United States. He was awarded his second Navy Cross for “bringing in” General José María Jirón Ruano, the Guatemalan Chief of Staff of the Nicaraguan General Augusto César Sandino.
In July 1930, Hanneken returned to Quantico to attend the Company Officers’ Course at the Marine Corps Schools. Upon graduation in January of the next year, he was transferred to the Marine Corps Base at San Diego, California, and later to the Naval Base, at San Pedro, California. His next assignment found him at the Marine Barracks, Mare Island, California, in August 1936, where during his tour of duty he was appointed a major.
Major Hanneken was ordered to Quantico in June 1938, and two months later reported for a course of instruction at that base in the Senior Course, Marine Corps Schools.
From June 1939 to December 1940, he was commanding officer, Marine Barracks, Naval Ammunition Depot, Hingham, Massachusetts. He was next ordered to New York to assume command of the Marine detachment aboard the USS Harry Lee with additional duties as Transport Quartermaster.
Hanneken served with the 1st Marine Division from June 1941 until November 1944, when he returned to the United States to command the 2nd Infantry Training Regiment and the Headquarters Battalion, at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California.
While with the famed 1st Marine Division his duties were varied. While commander of the 2nd Battalion of 7th Marine Regiment during the Guadalcanal campaign he was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy. Hanneken relieved Colonel Julian N. Frisbie as commanding officer of the 7th Marines and led this regiment during the Peleliu action, where he received the Legion of Merit for meritorious conduct in action, and during the Cape Gloucester operation he was decorated with the Bronze Star.
In September 1945, he was assigned as commanding officer of the Staging Regiment at the Marine Training and Replacement Command, San Diego Area, prior to his transfer to the Troop Training Unit, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet.
It was as Chief of Staff of that organization that he was transferred to the retired list for Marine Corps officers. He retired on July 1, 1948, concluding a 34-year career in the Marine Corps. He was advanced to his final rank of brigadier general upon his retirement for having been specially commended for service in actual combat.
Brigadier General Hanneken died on August 23, 1986, at the Veterans Hospital in LaJolla, California, and was buried with honors four days later at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California. He was 93 years old.
For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in actual conflict with the enemy near Grande Riviere, Republic of Haiti, on the night from 31 October to 1 November 1919, resulting in the death of Charlemagne Peralte, the supreme bandit chief in the Republic of Haiti, and the killing, capture, and dispersal of about 1,200 of his outlaw followers. Second Lt. Hanneken not only distinguished himself by his excellent judgment and leadership but also unhesitatingly exposed himself to great personal danger when the slightest error would have forfeited not only his life but the lives of the detachments of Gendarmerie under his command. The successful termination of his mission will undoubtedly prove of untold value to the Republic of Haiti.
BURIAL LOCATION: FORT ROSECRANS NATIONAL CEMETERY, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA.
SECTION C, GRAVE 166-D.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.