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Medal of Honor uniform at thrift store 2017


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Found this last year just before Halloween. Colonel Herman Henry Hanneken USMC. I accidentally deleted last years post so I'll try to restore it the best I can.

I didn't know what I was buying at the time. The name on the tag didn't mean anything to me. His address was USS Henry James when he had this uniform. There were signs of two diamond shaped patches on it, so I believe one was Ships Detachment and the other clearly 1st Division. HHH is penned inside one shoulder.



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Here's a write up about him.

Voodoo and revolution - a century ago, those were the two characteristics most often associated with Haiti. One was a product of the ancient religions of Africans and was carried across the Atlantic, a stowaway on the ships bringing slaves to the New World. The other was a product of squabbles over resources and power in a post-colonial environment.


Revolution followed revolution for more than 100 years after Haiti's independence from France in 1804. In the 20-year period beginning in 1895, the country had no fewer than 13 governments. Peace and prosperity were as unfamiliar to Haitians as the far side of the moon. Most were hungry, illiterate and victims of unrelenting corruption. For most of Haiti's existence, the United States was content to let the dysfunctional state go its own way.


With the advent of war in Europe, American attitudes changed, and in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the Marines ashore. He was concerned that Germany was taking advantage of the chaos in Haiti and had acquired economic control of its commerce. Moreover, the Panama Canal opened in 1914, and the number of American warships that passed near the island nation increased dramatically. The United States' North Atlantic Fleet used an important coaling station at the Haitian port of Mole St. Nicholas. The Marines were given a tall order: Restore peace, secure the coaling station, rebuild the nation and protect America's Caribbean flank against possible German incursion.


The Marines immediately took control of the inept and unreliable Haitian military. In a move that resembled the combined action platoons of the Vietnam War, they established a combined force, a native constabulary, in which Marine noncommissioned officers (NCOs) assumed commissioned ranks and commanded the Haitian enlisted men. Then they began the difficult task of rooting out rebels, bandits and anyone else who threatened the peace.


Not all Haitians were happy with the American presence. For some, it threatened the end of their banditry; for others, it was an assault on Haitian sovereignty; for a few, it was both. In 1917, rebel leader and bandit Charlemagne Peralte declared himself the country's ruler and established a provisional rebel government in a heavily jungled region of northern Haiti.


By 1919, Peralte had built a confederation of 15,000 rebels and sympathizers and had established extensive spy networks. He kept the revolutionary pot boiling with his own version of asymmetrical warfare. His informers told him which targets were the softest, and he then would hit and run, quickly vanishing into his mountain hideaway. The Marines considered him to be the biggest threat to the stability of Haiti and relentlessly chased him for two years without success.


Among the Marines was St. Louis-born Herman Henry Hanneken, who had enlisted in the Corps in 1914. By 1919, he had been in Haiti for more than four years. Hanneken, 26 years old, was now a sergeant in the Marine Corps and held the rank of captain in the Haitian constabulary.


Hanneken's native force was stationed near the Black Mountains in which Peralte was thought to have his main camp. Considering Peralte's elimination his first priority, the young Marine had gone after the rebel chieftain time after time and on each occasion had met with failure.


Hunting Peralte was similar to the modern-day hunt for Osama bin Laden. First, the Marines had to locate him. Then, they had to figure out how to get close enough to kill or capture him. Many times Hanneken tried to infiltrate Peralte's ranks with a loyal native soldier, and each time the wily leader smelled a rat. He refused to accept someone in his ranks who had not proven himself as a friend of the revolution by spilling government blood.


After much trial and error and thoughtful analysis, Hanneken formulated a complex plan to eliminate the guerrilla chief. To get close, Hanneken would create his own "guerrilla" force and see if he could ally it with the rebel chief. He recruited a loyal Haitian NCO, Sergeant Jean-Baptiste Gonze, and ordered him to form a phony squad-sized guerrilla force. Hanneken armed them with carbines from his own armory. Because there were no funds available for such an enterprise, he paid the men and fed them out of his own pocket.


Conze showed up at the local market (information central for the Haitians) and told everyone who would listen that he was fed up with the Marines and was organizing a guerrilla force to join Peralte. He bragged that he would kill Capt Hanneken.


Word quickly spread among the Haitians. Next, Hanneken mounted a deliberately half-hearted and inept effort to capture Conze, and Conze's force took to the bush. Conze then sent a letter through Peralte's elaborate system of cutouts and couriers, saying that he wished to join the rebel force. The ever- suspicious Peralte sent word to Conze that he had to prove himself. He had to spill government blood.


During the next few months, Hanneken and Conze staged a number of firefights. They would come together somewhere in the jungle at a prearranged time and place, expend a lot of ammunition, make ear-splitting noise and create great clouds of gunsmoke while firing safely over each other's heads.


After one such encounter, Sgt Hanneken faked a wound. He soaked a piece of cloth with red ink, made a battle dressing out of it and wrapped it around his shoulder, pretending to have been shot. Then he rode through the marketplace, leaning low on his horse as if badly wounded. He hid from public eye for a few weeks, allegedly recuperating. Word quickly spread vìa the jungle telegraph that Gonze had shot the Marine in a fight.


Peralte finally sent word through one of his elusive couriers that he would talk to Conze if Conze came alone to the rugged mountain area where he was holed up. Conze was escorted into the mountainous area after dark and had to pass through a string of the rebel outposts. At the first one, he was searched carefully. A guard relieved him of a fancy nickel-plated, pearl-handled Smith and Wesson pistol and turned it over to his escort. The pistol had been a gift from Hanneken.


Continuing up the mountain through several more checkpoints, Conze arrived at the camp where he was carefully searched again and led under heavy guard to Peralte. After a lengthy conversation, the rebel chief agreed to accept Conze's force into his ranks. To seal the deal, he took Conze's pistol. That turned out to be one of the key elements of Hanneken's success.


After the meeting, Conze was escorted down the mountain and in a clandestine meeting told Hanneken where Peralte was holed up.


While Hanneken was considering his next move, the rebel chief decided to test Conze. He ordered him to attack the town of Grande Riviere on the night of 31 Oct. 191 9 to break into the government armory and to steal all the weapons. Hanneken recognized the opportunity to lure Peralte into an ambush. He had Sgt Conze invite Peralte to join in the attack on Grande Riviere. The still- suspicious rebel chief declined, saying he would stay where he was and wait for news of a successful attack.


It was time for Plan B.


That night, Hanneken assembled a small force - Corporal William Button, Sgt Conze and 14 of his most trusted native troops, including another reliable sergeant named Compere, and himself. Hanneken ordered them to change into ragged and dirty clothing like those worn by Peralte's men. They kept the carbines they normally used. Hanneken drafted CpI Button for the raid because Button was a great hand with a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). Since they were going to walk into the lion's den, he wanted all the firepower he could get.


Also wearing rags, Hanneken and Button collected several kerosene lamps and scraped the black soot off them to rub on their faces and hands. They checked each other for white spots and donned hats that they wore low on their foreheads. It was a questionable disguise at best, but they thought that in the dark they might be able to pass for natives. Hanneken, who had been in Haiti for four years, spoke fluent Haitian-French-Creole, the language that the natives spoke, but with an accent. He planned to let Conze and Compere do all the talking.


Conze knew the way. He warned them that they would have to pass though several enemy outposts to reach the main camp. Hanneken cautioned his men to remain calm under all circumstances and not fire their weapons under any conditions until he initiated the action by firing his .45 -caliber pistol.


After two hours of marching up the mountainside on a black moonless night, they came to Peralte's first outpost. The humidity and exertion caused the men to sweat, and the two Marines were afraid that the lampblack on their faces would run and streak, giving them away. They were challenged at the outpost, but, thanks to Conze, they had the password. As they moved through the checkpoint, one of the sentries asked where they got their carbines and how the attack had gone on Grande Riviere. Sgt Compere said the raid went very well and that the carbines had been taken from a Haitian government armory.


Trusting Compere to handle the situation, Hanneken and Button nervously stayed to one side, hoping that their disguises would be good enough. As they cleared the checkpoint and before they resumed the march, the quick-thinking Compere told the rebel in charge of the sentries to send a runner ahead to tell Peralte that the attack on Grande Riviere had been a success and that they were on the way to give him the details. He hoped that the news would lull the sentries in the other outposts into complacency.


The force got through the next two outposts without incident. When they reached the fourth outpost, the effort nearly fell apart. One of Peralte's men noticed the BAR that Button was carrying, grabbed him by the right arm and began questioning him about where he had gotten it. Button, who spoke no Creole, thought the game was up. Hanneken put his hand on his pistol, ready to shoot the enemy if necessary. But Compere came to the rescue and fast-talked the enemy soldier into letting Button go. The enemy never noticed that Button was not a native.


An hour later, Hanneken's men walked into the rebel camp. A woman knelt by a small fire, brewing coffee. Near the fire several armed men stood idly by; many others were visible around the edge of the clearing. Hanneken immediately recognized Peralte. The pistol he had given Conze was stuck in Peralte's belt, and the firelight flickered off the nickel-plating. Two armed rebels with rifles at the ready stood to each side and a few paces ahead of the rebel chief.


Peralte squinted in the poor light and asked, "Who is it?" Without a moment's hesitation, Hanneken quickly walked right between the bodyguards, so close that he brushed against one of them, drawing his .45-cal. as he moved, and shot Peralte through the heart.


The woman tending the fire immediately poured the pot of coffee on the flames, extinguishing the fire and turning the campsite into pitch-black chaos. Button began spraying the area with his BAR. Hanneken ignored the turmoil and groped around in the darkness until he found the guerrilla chiefs body and then shot him twice more for good measure.


Most of the rebels fled into the jungle, but Hanneken's men captured two of them. Hanneken took them to where the corpse was lying, lit a match to illuminate their leader's face and let the captives see it. Then he turned them loose to spread the word that Peralte really was dead.


Hanneken decided to take Peralte's body to Grande Riviere as proof to one and all that he was dead. They found a door on a nearby shack, tore it off its hinges, tied the corpse to it and, using the door as a stretcher, carried it back down the mountain.


The next day the Marines propped up the door in the marketplace to prove to the natives that Peralte was dead. Then they buried him in a secret place to prevent the body from being used in voodoo ceremonies. After Peralte's death, hundreds of rebel troops came down the mountain to surrender.


Herman Hanneken and William Button each were awarded the Medal of Honor for their amazing feat, and Hanneken was given a battlefield commission to second lieutenant.


Not all of the insurgents were cowed. A few held out, but never posed a serious threat to the government as long as the Marines stayed in Haiti. Most of the rebels turned to banditry. Peralte's second in command, Osiris Joseph, tried to rebuild the rebel army. He terrorized northern Haiti for several months.


Five months to the day that Hanneken had killed Charlemagne Peralte, he once again walked right into an enemy camp in the middle of the night. He got to within 15 feet of Osiris Joseph and shot him dead. For that action he was awarded his first Navy Cross.


Herman Hanneken's career was far from finished.


Nearly a decade later, First Lieutenant Hanneken was chasing rebel Nicaraguan leader Augusto Sandino, for whom the 1980s Sandinistas were named. The Marines never caught the wily Sandino, but Hanneken captured his most senior general nearly by accident. Hanneken had stopped his eight-man patrol at a river, posted four men on guard duty and let the other four bathe. A few minutes later, a sentry ran up to Hanneken and whispered that there was a man on a mule coming down the trail toward them.


Hanneken quickly got his men out of the river and clothed and set up a hasty ambush. A few minutes later, a mule came walking down the trail, its rider asleep in the saddle. Hanneken quickly captured him and found that he was General Manuel Maria Giron. Giron had been Sandino's top assassin and had killed several important Nicaraguan government officials. He was thought also to have been responsible for brutally torturing to death and then mutilating the body of a Marine he had captured.


During a month of interrogation, Girón provided the Nicaraguan government and the Marines with a complete order of battle and valuable biographical data on Sandino's men. Once they had exhausted his knowledge, Girón was tried by a Nicaraguan court and sentenced to death by a native firing squad. As he was tied to the post to be shot, his executioner asked if he had any last words. Girón replied, "No, you son of a bitch."


Hanneken was awarded his second Navy Cross, not just for the capture of Girón, but also for a series of daring raids and heart- stopping firefights over a period of more than six months in which "he distinguished himself by his gallantry."


During World War II, as a lieutenant colonel on Guadalcanal, he commanded the 2d Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, while Lieutenant Colonel Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller commanded the 1st Bn. Hanneken was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry. He and Puller were promoted to colonel about the same time. Puller was given command of 1st Marines and Hanneken the 7th Marines, and the two fought together in the Peleliu campaign and again on Bougainville.


Herman Henry Hanneken was retired from the Corps on 1 July 1948. His promotion to the rank of brigadier general upon retirement was a fitting reward for the remarkable 34-year career of a lad from St. Louis. In his book, "More of the Deadliest Men Who Ever Lived," author Paul Kirchner listed Herman Hanneken with George Patton, Manfred von Richthofen and Richard the Lionhearted. He is an outstanding example of what a Marine NCO can accomplish through initiative and quick thinking.


Haitian constabulary Capt Herman H. Hanneken, a U.S. Marine sergeant (left), and constabulary 2dLt William R. Button, a Marine corporal, were decorated by the Honorable Philippe Sudré Dartlguenave, President of Haiti, for their actions against the rebels sometime In 1919.

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  • 1 month later...

Amazing that items like this end up in thrift stores, even more amazing is that a collector found it to preserve it, instead of it ending as a costume etc.... or being tossed in the trash.


Great find, well done.

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OK. OK. This is one of the most amazing stories! What a super cool find! Out of curiosity . . . and I understand if you don't want to share . . . but I am dying to know . . . how much did Goodwill ask for this? Or whatever thrift store . . .


I've found some pretty cool stuff at thrift stores, but this tops it all!

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  • 2 months later...

My name is Michael Hanneken Adams. I am the great grandson of Gen. Herman Hanneken. I was pleased to read about your find and am curious about where it was found. Would be interested in following up with you. I am sure you would like to know there was a film script written by George Roy Hill who as you know won an Academy award for “The Sting”. Th screenplay was written in 1959 and my father has the copy. Thank you for your interest in the General. Look forward to your response.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

NO EXPERT . I am amazed at this uniform Truly a USMC legend. Please correct me, but was the General killed in a home invasion/robbery some years . ago ??

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Great job Robin. Did you get his NARA file? I would not be surprised if either (or both of) the LOM and BSM were valor awards.

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