Henry Talmage “Hammerin’ Hank” Elrod was born in Turner County, Georgia back in 1905. He attended the University of Georgia and Yale before joining the United States Marine Corps in 1927. He spent a year at the Marine Corps Basic School in Philadelphia as a student aviator. In 1935, he earned his wings and was transferred to the Marine Corps Base Quantico serving until 1938 as the squadron’s school personnel and welfare officer.
On December 4, 1941, he flew to Wake Island. Just 8 days later he became the first man to sink a warship, the Japanese destroyer Kisaragi. After the destruction of all the U.S. on Wake Island he organized the remaining troops into a beach defense unit which repulsed repeated Japanese attacks. He was killed in action on December 23, 1941 while protecting his men who were carrying ammunition to a gun replacement. He is interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.
What you may not know about Henry is that he was the first aviator to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroism in the defense of Wake Island.
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