Henry Talmage "Hammerin' Hank" Elrod (September 27, 1905–December 23, 1941) was a US 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.
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 as a student aviator, Lieutenant Elrod was ordered to the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. There he served as a company officer and as student aviator. In February 1935, he earned his wings 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.
When all the U.S. aircraft had been destroyed by Japanese fire, he organized remaining troops into a beach defense unit which repulsed repeated Japanese attacks. On December 23, 1941, Captain Elrod was mortally wounded while protecting his men who were carrying ammunition to a gun emplacement.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 December 4, 1941, Captain Elrod flew to Wake Island with twelve aircraft, twelve pilots, and the ground crew of Major Paul A. Putnam's fighter squadron, VMF-211. Hostilities in the air over Wake Island commenced on December 8, 1941. On December 12, 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, dropping the bombs onto the destroyer's stern, causing the depth charges to explode.
He was posthumously promoted to Major on November 8, 1946, and 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 United States Marine Corps.
Major Elrod was initially buried on Wake Island, but was reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery in October 1947. His grave can be found in Section 12, Grave 3246.
Chapter 596 was chartered in 1991as the newest Military Order of the Purple Heart chapter in Georgia. We have a proud tradition of helping all veterans. If you would like to find out how to get involved or join our chapter please contact one of the officers listed above. Our meetings are open to all members. If you are a Purple Heart recipient and would like to come to a meeting to see what we are about please contact either of the officers listed above. Click on the images below to see the programs we proudly offer.
American Legion 184
1 Legion Drive
Thunderbolt, Georgia 31404
MEETING DAY / TIME
1st Saturday of the Month
MAJ. HENRY TALMAGE ELROD
596 - SAVANNAH
EST. DECEMBER 16, 1991