Hiram (Harry) Bingham IV (1903-1988), Vice Consul at the US consulate in Marseilles from 1939 to 1941, who worked with American rescue committees to help save more than 2,500 Jews and political opponents of the Nazi regime who were caught in France after the country's defeat. The son of a Connecticut governor and US Senator (and noted archaeologist, who unearthed the Inca city of Machu Picchu, Peru in 1911), Hiram Bingham IV was raised in a family of wealth and privilege. After graduating from Yale and attending Harvard Law School, Bingham went into the foreign service. In December 1936 he was posted to the US consulate in Marseilles, where he served as vice consul in charge of the visa section. Sympathetic to the plight of the refugees, who were being incarcerated in French concentration camps, Bingham developed contacts with members of the French resistance. Later he used these contacts to assist the rescue efforts of Varian Fry's Emergency Rescue Committee and Frank Bohn's American Federation of Labor committee. In violation of US State Department regulations, Bingham issued hundreds of visas beyond State Department quotas and falsified others to provide cover for individual refugees. He also provided the rescue committees with special papers that enabled refugees detained in French concentration camps to be released into Bingham's custody. Once they were released, the Vice Consul issued affidavits in lieu of passports and visas to the US. In addition, he helped Fry devise escape plans, offered his villa as a safe house for many prominent refugees and, on several occasions, personally escorted individuals across the border into Spain. When Varian Fry and more than a dozen members of his rescue network were arrested and detained by Vichy authorities on a prison ship, Bingham intervened to secure their release. The growing opposition of US Consul General Hugh Fullerton to his deputy's involvement in rescue efforts was a contributing factor to Bingham's reassignment to Lisbon in late April 1941. A few months later, in September 1941, he was transferred to Buenos Aires, where he sent back reports to the State Department warning about the Nazi infiltration of Argentina and the smuggling of looted gold into the country. His warnings, however, were not heeded. Disappointed by his experience, Bingham resigned from the foreign service at the end of 1945. He died almost penniless in 1988. Bingham was survived by his wife Rose and eleven children: Rose Tiffany, Hiram Anthony, Thomas, John, David, Robert Kim, Maria Cecilia, Abigail, Margaret, Benjamin and William. Although family members knew some of the details of his work in Marseilles, the whole story of Bingham's involvement in the rescue of refugees from Nazi persecution was not revealed for many decades until his youngest son discovered a bundle of documents in a cupboard behind a chimney in the family home. In 2002 Bingham was given a posthumous award for "constructive dissent" by the American Foreign Service Association. It was presented by US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
[Sources: Saul, Eric. "Visas for Life" exhibition, February 2000]