Henry Talmage “Hammerin’ Hank” Elrod (September 27, 1905–December 23, 1941) was a Marine Corps aviator. He was the first aviator to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II, for his heroism in the defense of Wake Island.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to
CAPTAIN HENRY T. ELROD
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following 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 TWO HUNDRED ELEVEN, during action against enemy Japanese land, surface and aerial units at Wake Island, from 8 to 23 December 1941. Engaging vastly superior forces of enemy bombers and warships on 9 and 12 December, Captain Elrod shot down two of a flight of twenty-two 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, Captain Elrod assumed command of one 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 determined Japanese attacks, repeatedly proceeding through intense hostile fusillades to provide covering fire for unarmed ammunition carriers. Capturing an automatic weapon during one enemy rush in force, he gave his own firearm to one of his men and fought on vigorously against the Japanese. Responsible in a large measure of the strength of his sector’s gallant resistance, on 23 December, Captain 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 United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country./S/HARRY S. TRUMAN
Don’t you aviation contracts ever think that the basic rifleman and infantry tactics learned at OCS or TBS could never be useful. Everybody needs to take all of the training seriously. Look at Captain Elrod, who shot down Japanese planes, then ditched his damaged plane and commanded the flank of the ground defense, and fought the Japanese with one of their own captured weapons. Semper Fidelis, Captain Elrod!