Thursday, June 10, 2010
Major ELROD, HENRY TALMAGE USMC 1905-1941
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps. Major Henry T. Elrod was born on September 27, 1905, in Turner County, Georgia. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in December, 1927, and was appointed a Marine second lieutenant in February,1931. He attended the University of Georgia and Yale University prior to his entry into the Marine Corps. Following over a year at the Marine Corps Basic School in Philadelphia and at the Marine Barracks there as a student aviator, Lieutenant Elrod was ordered to the Naval Station at Pensacola. Here he served as a company officer at the Naval Station, and as student aviator. In February, 1935, he won his wings and, as a Marine Aviator, was transferred to Quantico, where he served with a Marine aircraft unit until January, 1938. In addition to his other duties, he was squadron school, personnel, and welfare officer.
In July, 1938, Elrod went to San Diego for duty at the Naval Air Station and served as squadron material, parachute, and personnel officer, until January, 1941, when he was detached to the Hawaiian area.
He arrived at Wake a short time before the hostilities commenced and was one of the twelve pilots who flew the Marine planes onto the island. He was killed in action defending Wake Island against the invading Japanese on December 23, 1941.
During the defense of Wake, Major Elrod repeatedly displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty. On the 12th of December he single-handedly attacked a flight of 22 enemy planes and shot down two. On several flights he executed low altitude bombing and strafing runs on enemy ships, and became the first man to sink a major warship with small caliber bombs delivered from a fighter-type aircraft.
When his plane was destroyed by hostile fire he organized a unit of ground troops into a beach defense and repulsed repeated Japanese attacks until he fell mortally wounded.
He earned the Medal of Honor during World War II while serving as Captain, USMC, at Wake Island, on December 8-23, 1941 during the initial Japanese invasion of that Island.
On November 8, 1946, his widow was presented with the Medal of Honor, posthumously awarded to her husband for his heroic actions during the last bitter days of the defense of Wake.
Major Elrod was initially buried on Wake Island, but was reinterred in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Virginia, in October 1947.
Medal of Honor Citation:
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.