Major Henry T. Elrod was
born on 27 September 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 Station at
Pensacola. Here he served as a company officer and as student aviator. In
February 1935 he earned his wings and was transferred to Quantico, where he
served as a Marine Aviator until January 1938. In addition to his other
duties, he was the 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.
He arrived at Wake Island 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
23 December 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
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.
On 8 November 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 reentered in
Arlington National Cemetery, Ft. Myer, Virginia, in October 1947.
Medal of Honor citation:
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 form 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
USS ELROD was built at the
Bath Iron Works in Maine, and was commissioned in Brunswick, Georgia on May 18,
1985. The ship was originally home ported in Charleston, South Carolina and
shifted to Norfolk, Virginia during March of 1995. ELROD has completed five
deployments to the Arabian Gulf, four to the Mediterranean Sea, and one to
the Adriatic Sea, and has participated in numerous operations in the Atlantic
Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and the Caribbean Sea. During the Arabian
Gulf and Adriatic Sea deployments, ELROD protected and defended America's
vital interests in that region and contributed to the U.S. naval presence
during periods of hostility as well as peace.
ELROD's third Arabian Gulf deployment followed Operation DESERT STORM and
supported aggressive air and surface surveillance operations. ELROD conducted
naval exercises with other participating units of the Gulf Cooperation
Council nations to strengthen and further develop the bonds that were forged
during DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. The ship participated in TEAMWORK '92,
NATO's Arctic Ocean anti-submarine exercise, and Operation SHARP GUARD, in
support of multi-national enforcement of United Nations sanctions and
embargoing war materials to the Balkans. ELROD demonstrated America's
commitment to her NATO allies by providing a presence among the Standing
Naval Forces Mediterranean (SNFM) and Standing Naval Forces Atlantic (SNFL)
during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. ELROD completed another deployment in 2004
with our NATO allies in support of Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR, and helped
protect the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, in Operation
DISTINGUISHED GAMES. Most recently ELROD deployed to both the Mediterranean
and Black Seas, as well as visiting emerging West African nations in the Gulf
of Guinea, while also participating in the Standing NATO Maritime Group
exercise Operation STEADFAST JAGUAR, Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR and exercise
ELROD Sailors have served with pride and distinction as U. S. goodwill
ambassadors and spokespersons for our Navy, hosting official and unofficial
visits for foreign military, business, and civilian dignitaries throughout
the world, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab
Emirates, Spain, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Greece, Italy, France, Croatia,
Scotland, England, Cape Verde, Russia, Benin, Ghana, and Norway. ELROD has sailed
the major oceans of the world, transited the Panama and Suez canals, crossed
the equator and the Arctic Circle.
In addition to a reputation for operational readiness and fighting skills,
ELROD has earned a reputation for community support and participation in
charitable projects. The ship has been recognized for the crew's
contributions by designation as a Presidential "Point of Light."
USS ELROD has also earned numerous awards during her commissioned service,
including the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Navy Meritorious Unit
Commendation, Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation, Armed Force
Expeditionary Medal, several Battle Efficiency Excellence Awards, Secretary
of the Navy Energy Conservation Award, Armed Forces Recreation Society Award
and various departmental and mission-specific awards for excellence.