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First Name: Henry

Last Name: Elrod

Birthplace: Rebecca, GA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Home of Record: Ashburn, GA
Middle Name: Talmage

Date of Birth: 27 September 1905

Date of Death: 23 December 1941

Rank: Major

Years Served: 1927-1941
Henry Talmage Elrod
'Hammerin' Hank'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Henry Talmage "Hammerin' Hank" Elrod
Major, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Major Henry Talmage "Hammerin' Hank" Elrod (27 September 1905 - 23 December 1941) was a U.S. Marine Corps officer and aviator who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was the first aviator to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II.

Marine Corps Service

Henry Talmage Elrod was born on 27 September 1905, in Rebecca (Turner County), GA. He attended the University of Georgia and Yale University prior to his entry into the Marine Corps. He enlisted in the Marine Corps at Ashburn, GA, in December 1927 and was appointed a Marine Second Lieutenant in February 1931.

Following over a year at the Marine Corps Basic School in Philadelphia as a student aviator, Lieutenant Elrod was ordered to the Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL. There he served as a company officer and as student aviator. In February 1935, he earned his Naval Aviator Badge and was transferred to Marine Corps Base Quantico, where he served as a Marine Aviator until January 1938. In addition to his other duties, he was his squadron's school, personnel, and welfare officer.

In July 1938, Elrod was ordered to a squadron in San Diego and served as their material, parachute, and personnel officer until January 1941, when he was detached to the Hawaiian area.

On 4 December 1941, Captain Elrod flew to Wake Island with twelve aircraft, twelve pilots, and the ground crew of Major Paul Putnam's fighter squadron, VMF-211. Hostilities in the air over Wake Island commenced on 8 December 1941, following the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December. On 12 December, he single-handedly attacked a flight of 22 enemy planes and shot down two. He executed several low-altitude bombing and strafing runs on enemy ships; during one of these attacks, he became the first man to sink a warship, the Japanese destroyer Kisaragi, with small caliber bombs delivered from a fighter aircraft.

When all the U.S. aircraft on Wake Island had been destroyed by hostile fire, he organized the remaining troops into a beach defense unit that repulsed repeated Japanese attacks. On 23 December 1941, Captain Elrod was mortally wounded while protecting his men who were carrying ammunition to a gun emplacement. For his heroic actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps.

Place and date: Wake Island, 8 to 23 December 1941.

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.

Elrod was posthumously promoted to Major on 8 November 1946. His widow was presented with the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the defense of Wake Island. His widow is also a former commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with Wake Island Device

Surviving Aircraft Parts

Parts of Major Elrod's F4F-3 Mike Fox 11 (BuNo. 4019), including the aircraft's cowling nose ring, tailhook, and propeller, were believed to have been used in a memorial constructed on Wake Island. When the memorial was dismantled around 1965, the aircraft parts were sent to the Marine Corps Museum. When the National Air and Space Museum restored its FM-1 Wildcat, the only cowling nose ring that could be located was the one taken from the Wake Island memorial. This part, still bearing battle damage, was incorporated into the restored FM-1 that is now on display in Washington, DC.


The main road leading in to the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School is named after Elrod.

The City of Ashburn, the County Seat for Turner County, has built an outdoor park on E. Washington Avenue. The park and a building next door will be dedicated to Major Elrod. The building will be the Henry Elrod Welcome Center and will be available for public use.

A City park in the City of Rebecca in northeast Turner County is also named for Elrod. He grew up near Rebecca.

The U.S. Navy Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, USS Elrod (FFG-55), is named in his honor.

A street onboard the Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, CA, at San Diego is named after Elrod.

Death and Burial

Major Henry Talmage Elrod was killed in action on 23 December 1941. He was initially buried on Wake Island, but was re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in October 1947. His grave can be found in Section 12, Grave 3246.

Honoree ID: 1377   Created by: MHOH




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