Medal of Honor Fighters

Jul 21, 2014 No Comments by

The Highest Award for Extreme Service

By Barrett Tillman

Captain Henry T. Elrod did it all. In the 16-day defense of Wake Island in December 1941, the 36-year-old Marine shot down at least one Japanese aircraft, sank an enemy warship, and conducted the ground defense on his part of the 1,400-acre sandspit when the invaders got ashore.

A native Georgian, Elrod had enlisted in the Corps in 1927, received a commission, and won wings of gold in 1935. He was an experienced fighter pilot in Maj. Paul Putnam’s VMF-211 when Mitsubishi G3M Nells attacked on Decem- ber 8, across the International Date Line from Pearl Harbor. Elrod was leading his four-plane division but was out of position to intercept the bombers. They wrecked much of Wake’s defense, including all the F4F-3s on the ground.

The pilots took turns flying the remaining fighters, and Elrod was up again on the 10th. Undaunted at the odds, he piled into the 26 Mit- subishi Nells approaching the atoll, claiming two kills. In truth, he got one, a morale boost for the leathernecks.

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