George Wallis Hamilton – Captain, United States Marine Corps

George Wallis Hamilton was born in 1892.  During World War I, he served in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, American Expeditionary Force.  He earned the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre in that conflict.

Captain Hamilton, a Naval Aviator, was killed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1922

Tragedy of Captain Hamilton Adds To An Appallingly Long List of Victims
July 2, 1922
Courtesy of The New York Times

After facing death a thousand times with the Marines at Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, Belleau Wood and in the two Meuse-Argonne offensives, Captain George Hamilton returned to this country and peace times to die a few days ago while piloting an airplane in a sham battle at Gettysburg.  His machine crashed to earth from a distance of 400 feet above the historic battlefield.

In France, Captain Hamilton’s record for daring and for hairbreadth escapes was not surpassed by that of any one in the A.E.F.  He received the Distinguished Service Cross from his own Government and was decorated twice by the French for gallantry.  A thrilling war painting commemorates one of his deeds.  It depicts him, at that time a Major, leading a battalion of Marines across a pontoon bridge over the Meuse under heavy artillery and machine gun fire in an effort to establish a beachhead.

Uninjured by enemy bullet, gas or high explosive shell, Captain Hamilton was mustered out of the service after the Armistice.  He rejoined, however, a few months later and entered the Aviation Corps.  In the air the former “soldier of the sea,” displayed the same courage and audacity for which he had been known at the front.  The qualities, combined with skill and a natural aptitude for flying, soon put him in the forerank of our airmen.

Then came the end.  With a number of others of his Corps, Captain Hamilton was sent to take part in the maneuvers at Gettysburg, where his old comrades, the Marines, were playing at war.  While scouting ahead of the Fifth Regiment of Marines “something went wrong” and death claimed a life that had seemed charmed against all mishap.

Courtesy of Mark Mortensen: July 2010
(Mark has completed writing a biography of G. W. Hamilton)


George Wallis Hamilton was with the first group of Americans to set foot on French soil. As a Captain he led the way in the first major American assault called Belleau Wood starting at 0345 on June 6, 1918. Four days later Colonel Wendell Neville the future 14th Commandant of the Marine Corps officially recommended Hamilton for the Medal of Honor. He did not receive it however. As a Major commanding the 1/5 on October 4, 1918 his battalion survived “The Box”, which was the worst single day of fighting fore the 5th Regiment in World War I. On the evening of November 10th he was in command of two battalions. He is featured in the famous painting by Fredrick C. Yohn, titled “The Last Night of the War”, crossing the Meuse River with 1/5. On November 11, 1918, Armistice Day, he was the final ranking officer in the American Expeditionary Forces to hear the news that the Great War was over. From the start of the war until the very end he was involved in all of the major actions.

Colonel Clyde H. Metcalf USMC, who authored “A History of the United States Marine Corps”, in a letter mentioned of Hamilton, “in the opinion of the undersigned, was the most outstanding Marine Corps hero in World War I.”

In the early 1920's the Marine Corps had an annual reenactment at Gettysburg. The reenactment was to display how the battle would be fought with current technology as well as promote the Corps. In 1922 Hamilton had become a USMC squadron pilot. As he prepared to land in the vicinity of Picket's Charge, his plane went into a tragic nose dive and crashed.

My interest in the book originated due to the fact that my grandfather, as a volunteer private sharpshooter, served under Hamilton.


  • DATE OF DEATH: 06/28/1922
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 06/29/1922

We are actively seeking additional information concerning Captain Hamilton.


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