Skip to comments.Oldest Medal of Honor recipient from WWII dies
Posted on 05/27/2010 3:16:15 PM PDT by stevie_d_64
SAN DIEGO Retired Navy Lt. John Finn, the oldest Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, died Thursday at his Southern California ranch. He was 100.
Finn enlisted in the Navy just before his 17th birthday and went on to become the first man to receive the nation's highest military award for heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, according to a Navy statement.
He was the oldest of 97 Medal of Honor recipients still living.
Despite head wounds and other injuries, Finn, the chief of ordnance for an air squadron, continuously fired a .50-caliber machine gun from an exposed position as bullets and bombs pounded the Naval Air Station at Kaneohe Bay in Oahu. He then supervised the rearming of returning American planes.
"Here they're paying you for doing your duty, and that's what I did," Finn told The Associated Press before his 100th birthday. "I never intended to be a hero. But on Dec. 7, by God, we're in a war."
(Excerpt) Read more at news.yahoo.com ...
Thank god there were (and are) men like you, Mr. Finn. We owe you everything.
Thank you, Lt. Finn, for your service to your country and protecting the freedom of all of us.
Rest in Peace!
Finn was stationed at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. As a chief aviation ordnanceman, he was in charge of twenty men whose primary task was to maintain the weapons of a PBY Catalina flying boat squadron. On the morning of December 7, 1941, Finn was at his home, about a mile from the aircraft hangars, when he heard the sound of gunfire. Finn recalled how a neighbor was the first to alert him, when she knocked on his door saying, “They want you down at the squadron right away!”. he drove to the hangars (seeing Japanese planes in the sky on the way) and found that the airbase was being attacked, with most of the PBYs already on fire.
His men were trying to fight back by using the machine guns mounted in the PBYs, either by firing from inside the flaming planes or by detaching the guns and mounting them on improvised stands. In 2009 Finn explained one of the first things he did was take control of a machine gun from his squadron’s painter. “I said, ‘Alex, let me take that gun’...knew that I had more experience firing a machine gun than a painter.”
Finn then found a movable platform used for gunnery training, attached the .50 caliber machine gun, and pushed the platform into an open area, from which he had a clear view of the attacking aircraft. He fired on the Japanese planes for the next two hours, even after being seriously wounded, until the attack had ended. In total, he received 21 distinct wounds, including a bullet through the foot and an injury which rendered his left arm numb.
“I got that gun and I started shooting at Jap planes,” Finn said in a 2009 interview.
“I was out there shooting the Jap planes and just every so often I was a target for some,” Finn said. “They were Japanese fighter plane pilots. I can remember seeing, in some cases, I could see their faces.”
Despite his injuries, he returned to the hangars later that day, after receiving medical treatment, and helped arm the surviving American planes.
For these actions, Finn was formally presented with the Medal of Honor on September 14, 1942, by Admiral Chester Nimitz. The ceremony occurred in Pearl Harbor on board the USS Enterprise (CV-6).
During the remainder of World War II, he served as a Limited Duty Officer Ensign and eventually as a Lieutenant with Bombing Squadron VB-102 and aboard the USS Hancock (CV-19). He retired from the Navy in the rank of Lieutenant in September 1956.
Good thing he didn’t get the medal for restraint.
Lieutenant, words can not convey the fullness of measure that you have earned. Never in your life could we show our true gratitude for the freedom we enjoy by your actions. God rest you in a high place, sir.
former Army Sgt
For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy's fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
God Bless, Lt. Finn, and thanks!
In the olde days America gave out medals for shooting at the enemy. In those days we achieved total, unconditional, permanent victory over our enemy.
Now we are planning medals for NOT shooting back.
Since WWII the only war victory the US has achieved that stated won, was Grenada.
Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I, Iraq II, Afghanistan, cold war we didn’t push all the way to the finish, meaning we didn’t kill enough of the enemy, including civilians to teach them the necessary lesson.
I wondered why there were flags at half staff this afternoon. Now I know. Rest in peace sir.
The current White House occupant has never been and never will be fit to shine this hero’s shoes.
Rest in Peace, LT John Flinn. This old Marine salutes you!
My first duty with the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) was at Kaneohe.
I just happened to see this story on NBC news (my wife had it on and I was just passing through the den) and watched the story. At the end, Brian Williams said, “We’re going to miss you, John Finn.” I yelled at the TV, “Dude, up to this very moment in time you probably didn’t even know who John Finn was and probably could care less about him. F’n jerk.” Pi$$ed me off bigtime.
Mansions of the Lord
I feel bad...LT Finn.
Deepest condolences to his family and friends, and heartfelt thanksgiving for his service to our country.
God bless all our military people and their families, and God bless the United States of America.
Hey, all you Navy vets - notice Finn entered as enlisted in 1936-37 when he was 17 years old, and by December 7, 1941, he was a Chief!
That is making rate real fast!
Wouldn’t that be 1926? Born in ‘09, + 17?
RIP, Lt. Finn.
God rest his soul.
The MOH winners are a national treasure.
Check your math.
He would have been in since around 1927. He was in the service for 14 years by the time of the attack.
And as he so rightly said, By God he did his duty!
I wrote about meeting John Finn a couple years ago. I think it makes an appropriate reading at this time. America is poorer for losing him today....
In my line of work I’ve been blessed to have met many important persons. Working the occasional dignitary protection detail and working with the Police Association, I’ve been fortunate enough to have met Presidents, Vice Presidents, Senators, a First Lady, Congressmen and Governors. None of them have ever made the impact upon me that John Finn did. I can hear many of you asking yourselves now, who in the hell is John Finn. Well sports fans, in the words of renowned Reno Police Detective Jay Brown, “John Finn is a national treasure.”
You see, on a bright Sunday morning, in December 1941, when he should have been enjoying a leisurely breakfast with his wife, John Finn was instead thrust into World War II. And what an entrance he made. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had just begun and John Finn left his home, driving like a madman to reach his station at Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station, Territory of Hawaii that morning and once there, he manned a .50 cal machine gun in a completely exposed portion of the seaplane parking ramp. How exposed? Exposed enough that he was wounded 22 times from Japanese strafing attacks and shrapnel from bomb bursts. John Finn could have quit and sought first aid. No one would have blamed him. Instead he continued to man his post until the Japanese attack was over and he was ordered to seek medical attention. His actions are credited with downing at least one Japanese plane that morning but he downplays his shooting skills, claiming he’s not so sure he shot anything down. Still not ready to quit, he got himself bandaged up and then proceeded to his aircraft hangar to initiate salvage operations and organize defenses for potential further raids. For his actions that morning, John Finn was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded for valor. You can read his official citation here.
John Finn came to Nevada last week for a military veterans convention, and he was escorted by an honor guard of about 50 local law enforcement officers who met him as he deplaned in Reno. The gathering was largely the work of the Transportation Security Administration and the Reno Police Honor Guard who made the effort to alert local media about a national treasure coming to River City and who also notified local law enforcement agencies. Since I happen to work in a unit with members of the Honor Guard, I had access to the information and planning that went on and which included organization of a Reno Police Motorcyle Escort from the airport to the hotel for Mr. Finn. All of the officers volunteered to be there, putting aside other duties or giving up their personal time.
The officers who went to the airport formed two ranks on either side of the airport gate and rendered a snap salute as Mr. Finn passed us, smiling and returning our salute. The crowd at the gate broke out in a cheer and applause. Mr. Finn was then met by local media and he gave an interview that shows what kind of straight shooter he is. The type of interview that gets heavily edited in this politically correct era. The type of interview you’ll never see on the evening news. When asked by a reporter what he first remembers about that Sunday, December 7, 1941, Finn replied “I remember waking up in bed with a beautiful blonde!” (The blonde was his wife Alice) When the reporter asked Finn what he had done to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor, he said simply that “I didn’t have the good sense to come in out of the rain, the damn Japs were bombing our base and I was angry and I got paid to fight!” When asked about his wounds, Finn said, “I wasn’t hurt so bad, the guys that were hurt bad were dead, I was still moving so I knew I wasn’t hurt bad!”
(Finn’s wounds required a month’s worth of convalescence at the hospital after the attack so these wounds were not of the John Kerry variety.)
Did I mention that John Finn is 98 years old? He is the nation’s oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor. When we arrived at the airport to escort him, many people in the terminal and gate areas were initially very nervous seeing so many police around. Some asked what was going on and when we explained to them that we were there to honor the man who is a national treasure, the oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor they quickly broke out their cameras. Escorting John Finn through the airport was an absolute thrill. The shouts and applause for this man and many photos taken reminded me that there are those in America still ready to honor a hero, and who still believe in the greatness of this nation, especially here in flyover country. People were coming up just to shake his hand, to touch him, to connect to history through him. As he addressed the crowd, I’m not ashamed to say that a tear or two came cascading down my cheek. And I wasn’t the only cop there running the waterworks. I’m one of those guys who chokes up at history. I once stood with a Texan on the battlefield at Chancellorsville, at the spot where Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson last met. We stood there and cried like babies for several long minutes, too caught up in the history of the spot to care who saw us. It was just like that meeting John Finn.
Sure, I may meet a few more dignitaries in my career, but none of them will have the dignity of John Finn nor will any of them make the impression on me that he did. I was able to salute and thank a man who did more for his country in two hours, over 65 years ago, than the entire Congress has done in the past 60 years. I pray to God that John Finn can come to Reno again next year, because I can assure you that if he does, we’ll have even more officers there to pay him our respects. It was my very great honor and privilege to have met this gentleman last Thursday and I owe that honor to the Transportation Security Administration. It is fashionable to bash these folks, most of whom are just like you and me, working hard to do their job, which happens to be protecting us. It was TSA officials who let us know that John Finn was coming to Reno. Without that advance notice, we could not have arranged the reception for him that we did. So I want to publicly thank the TSA and especially Jim Deal who gave us the heads up.
OOPS! Thought he was born in 1919; I see it was 1909.
Thank you for sharing. Thank you for your service.
The fact that John Finn is such an example of the American spirit, that he was 100 years old, and that he passed on during this Memorial Day week is a reminder of who we were, who we are, and what we can be.
I’m so thankful for him and others who have showed that spirit, and who still show it today - some in uniform, some not. They are there all across our nation and serving in other places; but, you’re right, we seldom hear stories about them. Too many of those stories would ruin the agenda of a nat’l media which views America from a different perspective.
Thank you for this story.
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