Capt. Elwood Euart is a fallen World War II hero.
In 1943, Euart was aboard the S.S. President Coolidge when the ship was struck by friendly mines crossing into the harbor of a military base in the Southwest Pacific.
The ship, which had been transformed into a troop carrier following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, had been sailing for months on its way to the base on Espiritu Santo, but it was left off of sailing orders. As it approached the base, friendly fire struck the engine room and the stern.
The ships’ captain, knowing he would lose the vessel, ran the Coolidge aground, giving the almost 5,000 men aboard from the 43rd Infantry Division time to escape.
Almost all the men, including Euart, had safely escaped the ship when he heard that several men were trapped inside the infirmary. Accounts say Euart went back to save their lives, and helped them escape by acting as a "human anchor", but sank with the ship. Only one other person, a mechanic in the engine room, did not survive.
Euart’s body was never found, until recently. For decades, military officials said Capt. Euart's body was unrecoverable, but John Euart said his family learned about his uncle's remains almost two years ago after a dive guide reported seeing a skeleton in the hull of the ship. In 2015, a team went into the wreckage and found the remains. They were able to identify him by his dog tag, which amazingly remained completely intact, and confirmed it through DNA matching of relatives.
Now, nearly seven decades after Euart died, he’s finally getting a hero’s welcome.
On Aug. 27, Euart’s nephew and surviving family from Atlanta met the fallen officer’s remains at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, along with Delta’s honor guard, to give him a full military welcome.
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John said the welcome home was a meaningful moment for his family.
"I only wish my dad was still here to say goodbye to his brother," he told 11Alive News. "For them, there was no ending. If dad and some of siblings could have been alive to hear some of the rest of the story, it would have been awesome."
Euart’s remains continued on to Rhode Island, where he will be buried next week by all of his remaining nieces and nephews. Euart was not married and did not have any children.
A memorial to Capt. Euart is located on the shore of Espiritu Santo, near where the Coolidge sank, and was declared a Protected Wreck and War Grave. He was posthumously awarded for extraordinary heroism and given the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Hear and the Rhode Island Cross.
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