World War II Veteran, National Park Service Chief Historian, Tour Guide, Author
Edwin C. Bearss Lifetime Achievement Award
2018 & 2001
Badly wounded by Japanese machine-gun fire in the Pacific during World War II, Ed Bearss spent 26 months in military hospitals, where he spent countless hours reading history. A Montana native educated in a one-room school, Bearss began his long and distinguished National Park Service career in 1955 at Vicksburg National Military Park, where he helped locate the sunken Union gunboat Cairo. From 1981 to 1994, Bearss was the NPS chief historian. Since his retirement in 1995, he has devoted his energies to giving lectures and battlefield tours, writing and appearing on numerous TV programs, including Ken Burns’ The Civil War. Bearss has received many honors, including the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award. His dedication to battlefield preservation and Civil War history prompted the Civil War Trust to name its Lifetime Achievement Award after him, and he was its first recipient in 2001. In 2018, the American Battlefield Trust rededicated the award and again presented it to Bearss, who turned 95 that June.