American WWII Hero Who Died To Save His Buddies Returns Home After 70 Years

SS President Coolidge being abandoned after beaching, 1942.
SS President Coolidge being abandoned after beaching, 1942.

Captain Elwood Euart was a World War II hero.

In 1943, he was sailing aboard the SS President Coolidge, a ship that had been transformed into a troop carrier after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. They had been sailing for months on their way to the base at Espiritu Santo. Unfortunately, they had been left off the sailing orders and were attacked by friendly fire. The engine room and stern were struck.

The captain, recognizing that the ship was lost, ran the Coolidge aground which allowed the nearly 5,000 men aboard to get away.

Nearly all the crew was off the ship when they received word that several men were still trapped in the infirmary.  Euart rushed back into the sinking ship and acted as a “human anchor” to help the trapped crewmen. Only Euart and a mechanic in the engine room failed to survive the sinking of the Coolidge.

For decades, military officers said it was impossible to recover his body for a proper burial.

A dive guide noticed a skeleton on the ship and reported it. A team went down in 2015 and found Euart’s dog tags, still intact. They confirmed the identity of the remains through DNA testing.

On August 27, Euart’s nephew and other remaining family members met the flight containing his remains with Delta’s honor guard, giving him a full military welcome.

John Euart, Euart’s nephew, called the moment meaningful.

“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 his siblings could have been alive to hear some of the rest of the story, it would have been awesome.”

Euart’s remains went on to Rhode Island. There, he will be buried with all of his remaining nieces and nephews. Euart never married and had no children.

There is a memorial to Euart on the shore of Espiritu Santo. It is near the spot where the Coolidge sank. He was posthumously awarded for extraordinary heroism and received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, and the Rhode Island Cross.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE