Chief Aviation Ordnance Officer John William Finn Dies At 100

 

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Chief Aviation Ordnance Officer John William Finn Dies At 100

By
Shane Nolan
 
 

May 29, 2010 -John William Finn died at age 100 on the morning of May 27, 2010, at the Chula Vista Veterans Home. He was the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the attack on Pearl Harbor, the oldest living recipient, and the only aviation ordnance man to have ever received the Medal of Honor. Upon his death, fellow World War II veteran Barney F. Hajiro became the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient.

Finn was born on July 23, 1909, he served as a United States Navy Chief Petty Officer who received the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II.

 

Finn was stationed at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. As a chief aviation ordnance man, he was in charge of twenty men whose primary task it 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. 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 caused him to lose feeling in his left arm.

"I got that gun and I started shooting at Jap planes," Finn said. "I was out there shooting the Jap planes and just every so often I was a target for some," he said, "in some cases, I could see the Japanese pilots' faces."

Despite wounds, 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.

 

 
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