"Hammerin' Hank" Elrod - Hero Of Wake Island
Henry Elrod joined the Marine Corps in 1927 and was commissioned as an officer in 1931, after attending Yale University and the University of Georgia. On December 4, 1941, Elrod arrived on Wake Island with twelve other pilots and planes.
Elrod proved his courage and determination from the start of the Japanese attack on Wake on December 8, 1941. On December 12, he alone engaged a flight of 22 Japanese planes, shooting down two. A few days later he sank the Kisaragi, a Japanese destroyer.
The American forces were hard pressed, however, and the tiny air fleet was eventually destroyed by the Japanese. In true Marine fashion - everyone a rifleman! - Elrod fought on ground, leading Marines in close combat with the Japanese landing force before being mortally wounded on December 23.
Would you mess with this man? The Japanese did - to their regret!
Elrod's widow was presented with his Medal Of Honor in 1946. Elrod is a legend in the Marine Corps, with many installations named for him, including the road leading into the Marine Corps' Officer Candidate School.
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.