Henry Talmage 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 and at the Marine Barracks there as a student aviator, 2dLt Elrod was ordered to the Naval Station in Pensacola, Florida. There he served as a company officer at the Naval Station, and as student aviator. He was promoted to first lieutenant on 29 May 1934.
In February 1935, he earned his wings and, as a Marine Aviator, was transferred to Quantico, Virginia, where he served with a Marine aircraft unit until January 1938. In addition to his other duties, he was squadron school, personnel, and welfare officer. He was also promoted to captain during this time on 1 September 1937. In July 1938, Capt Elrod went to San Diego for duty at the Naval Air Station and served as squadron material, parachute, and personnel officer, until January 1941, when he was detached to the Hawaiian Islands 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. During the defense of Wake, Capt 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 aircraft.
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. Capt Elrod was killed in action defending Wake Island against the invading Japanese on 23 December 1941.
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, who had been posthumously promoted to major in January 1942, was initially buried on Wake Island, but was reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, in October 1947.