Captain Hulbert of the Old Breed

Hulbert 001Henry Lewis Hulbert (12 Jan 1867—4 Oct 1918) was one of those Marines of the “old breed” I enjoy reading about. He was the first born of a prosperous Kingston-Hull, Yorkshire, England family, and this enabled him to attend Felsted School in Essex and later, to enter the British Colonial Service. His first appointment was in Malaya, where he married Anne Rose Hewitt, but a subsequent scandal and divorce led him to leave Malaysia for the United States.

At the age of 31, Hulbert enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps (1898) and completed boot camp at Mare Island, California. His initial line assignment placed him in the company of 200 fellow Marines in a joint British-American intervention expedition to Samoa. During the Second Samoan Civil War, then Private Hulbert distinguished himself in combat and was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor due to his gallantry and intrepidity under fire.

Hulbert 002

By the time the United States entered World War I, Hulbert was serving at the highest enlisted rank.  Sergeant Major Hulbert served on the staff of Marine Corps Commandant, Major General George Barnett. Then, just prior to America’s entry into the war, Hulbert was appointed as the first Marine Corps Gunner (warrant officer) and was reassigned to the Fifth Regiment of United States Marines on 27 March 1917.  Hulbert was five months past his 50th birthday.  As the United States began to prepare for war, senior officers realized that the Corps was significantly short of company grade offers —those who ordinarily command platoons and companies.  As a consequence, the Marine Corps promoted Gunner Hulbert (and others) to the rank of second lieutenant (temporary).

During World War I, Lieutenant Hulbert participated in the Battle of Belleau Wood, and during this battle was recognized several times for courage under fire.  He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and recommended for a battlefield commission to Captain.

At the Battle of Soissons, Hulbert distinguished himself further but was killed in action on 4 October 1918 at Mont Blanc Ridge.  He was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain, and awarded the Navy Cross, Purple Heart, and Croix de Guerre (France). A U. S. Navy destroyer (DD-342) was named in his honor and was commissioned from 1920 to 1945.

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Retired Marine, historian, writer.

13 thoughts on “Captain Hulbert of the Old Breed”

  1. Hulbert had to be one of the oldest second lieutenants in the history of the U. S. Marine Corps and no doubt, led from the front. Fantastic story …


    1. Exactly so, Robert and there wasn’t a sergeant who could buffalo this second louie …

      Thank you for stopping by.


    1. Thank you Louis. Truth is very often more interesting and entertaining than fiction.


  2. I wonder if in his demeanor he was similar to the British Sergeant Major (who I think is regarded as a warrant officer) … calm, proficient in the art of war, someone who you would follow beyond the gates of hell. I feel certain these kinds of warriors continue to exist in the U. S. Marine Corps: men who understood what they were getting themselves into, and men who would not seek any sympathy no matter what kinds of wounds they received. Damn good story …


    1. I can imagine you are correct, Sam. Did you see the film Zulu? Do you remember the sergeant major who calmly stood with his men, attending to their discipline, his back rigid, shoulders back, voice calm, his eyes missing nothing? Great stuff. I can see Hulbert moving with his platoon across the open field, calm and competent.

      Thank you for your comment.


    1. Yes, it is Angel. Thank you very much for stopping by. Your comment is very much appreciated.

      Semper Fi


  3. My thanks, yet again, Mustang. You share history and fine examples of terrific people of our past. I had not heard of this Marine and will do a bit of research on him. Britain’s loss was our gain.

    Snappy picture too.

    Keep the stories coming. Some will read and tell their children and grandchildren. Some will forward them. Some will share with students. You do a great service.


  4. I came here today because I figured a military blog is the best place to voice my gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all the soldiers who lived and didn’t…
    Odd..I’d read that post about Capt Hulbert but apparently didn’t comment. Well, I will now….
    he’s one of the guys I meant above.
    xxx Z


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