Hiram Bingham IV (1903-1988) served as a U.S. diplomat in France during World War II. He is remembered for saving the lives of thousands of refugees during the war through his principled opposition to U.S. policy. A U.S. postage stamp commemorates his contributions.
Born to a prominent Connecticut family, Bingham's father was an archaeologist who inspired the Indiana Jones movie character. Henry Bingham IV graduated from Yale in 1925 and studied international law at Harvard. After he entered the Foreign Service in 1929, his postings included China, Poland and England.
During the late 1930s, Bingham was named vice consul in Marseilles, France, where he was in charge of issuing visas. In 1940 and 1941, against the official policies of the United States, he issued visas and false passports to Jews and other refugees, assisting in their escape and sometimes sheltering them in his own home. He also worked with American journalist/hero Varian Fry to save refugees, and is credited with saving more than 2,000 people from the Nazis. He is also credited with saving such famous figures as artist Marc Chagall, Nobel-winning biochemist Otto Meyerhoff, and historian Hannah Arendt, before being transferred to Portugal and then to Argentina.
In 1941, his unhappy superiors transferred him to Argentina, where he again disobeyed government officials by monitoring and reporting on Nazi war criminals.
He was ultimately removed from diplomatic service, and he died a destitute man in 1988.
Since the posthumous discovery of his humanitarian activities during the 1980s and 1990s, Bingham has been recognized by the United Nations, and in June 2002 he was honored by the American Foreign Service Association with a special award for "constructive dissent".