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Friday, December 23, 2011
TFH 12/23: Captain Henry Talmage Elrod, USMC
Henry Elrod was born in Turner County, GA on September 27, 1905. After attending the University of Georgia and Yale University, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1927. He received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in 1931, and earned his aviators' wings in 1935.
The growing winds of war found "Hammerin' Hank" in Hawai'i early in 1941. As hostilities increasingly appeared imminent, he was sent with the 14 planes of Marine Fighter Squadron 211 to Wake Island on December 4th. On December 8th, coincidental with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (Wake, being on the other side of the International Date Line), Wake also came under assault.
The Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and civilians on Wake Island held off the Japanese invaders for fifteen days of intense combat. Henry Elrod flew his F4F Wildcat to distinction, shooting down two attacking aircraft and sinking a Japanese destroyer. When all the defender's aircraft had been destroyed, he picked up a rifle and joined the battle line. 70 years ago today, he gave his life, and for his gallantry he received our Nation's highest honor:
*ELROD, HENRY TALMAGE
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 27 September 1905, Rebecca, Ga. Entered service at: Ashburn, Ga. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to Marine Fighting Squadron 211, during action against enemy Japanese land, surface and aerial units at Wake Island, 8 to 23 December 1941. Engaging vastly superior forces of enemy bombers and warships on 9 and 12 December, Capt. Elrod shot down 2 of a flight of 22 hostile planes and, executing repeated bombing and strafing runs at extremely low altitude and close range, succeeded in inflicting deadly damage upon a large Japanese vessel, thereby sinking the first major warship to be destroyed by small caliber bombs delivered from a fighter-type aircraft. When his plane was disabled by hostile fire and no other ships were operative, Capt. Elrod assumed command of 1 flank of the line set up in defiance of the enemy landing and, conducting a brilliant defense, enabled his men to hold their positions and repulse intense hostile fusillades to provide covering fire for unarmed ammunition carriers. Capturing an automatic weapon during 1 enemy rush in force, he gave his own firearm to 1 of his men and fought on vigorously against the Japanese. Responsible in a large measure for the strength of his sector's gallant resistance, on 23 December, Capt. Elrod led his men with bold aggressiveness until he fell, mortally wounded. His superb skill as a pilot, daring leadership and unswerving devotion to duty distinguished him among the defenders of Wake Island, and his valiant conduct reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Captain Elrod was originally interred on Wake Island among those who fell with him during the battle. His remains were moved to Arlington National Cemetery in 1947, where he rests today.