Victoria_Cross_of_canada

THE

 

TO THE VICTORIA & GEORGE CROSS

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

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b. 23/07/1909 Los Angeles, California. d. 27/05/2010 Chula Vista, California.

 

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 07/12/1941 Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.

 

Born on 24 July 1909, in Compton, California, Finn dropped out of school after the seventh grade. He enlisted in the Navy in July 1926, shortly before his seventeenth birthday, and completed recruit training in San Diego. After a brief stint with a ceremonial guard company, he attended General Aviation Utilities Training at Naval Station Great Lakes, graduating in December. By April 1927 he was back in the San Diego area, having been assigned to Naval Air Station North Island. He initially worked in aircraft repair before becoming an aviation ordnanceman and working on anti-aircraft guns. He then served on a series of ships: the USS Lexington (CV-2), the USS Houston (CA-30), the USS Jason (AC-12), the USS Saratoga (CV-3), and the USS Cincinnati (CL-6).

 

Finn was promoted to chief petty officer (E-7, the highest enlisted rank in the Navy at that time) in 1935 after only nine years of active duty. He later commented on his promotions, "Everybody thought I was a boy wonder. I was just in the right place at the right time." As a chief, Finn served with patrol squadrons in San Diego, Washington, and Panama.

 

By December 1941, 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 VP-11, a PBY Catalina flying boat squadron. At 7:48 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, 7 December 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, catching sight of Japanese planes in the sky on the way, and found that the airbase was being attacked, with most of the PBYs already on fire.

 

MOH CITATION:

 

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, Territory of Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, he promptly secured and manned a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machine gun 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 are considered to be in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service.

 

From 1956 until shortly before his death, Finn resided on a 90-acre (0.36 km2) ranch in Live Oak Springs, near Pine Valley, California. He and his wife became foster parents to five Native American children, causing him to be embraced by the Campo Band of Diegueño Mission Indians, a tribe of Kumeyaay people in San Diego. His wife, Alice Finn, died in 1998. Finn died at age 100 on the morning of 27 May 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 ordnanceman to have ever received the medal.

 

BURIAL LOCATION: SAINT CARMEL CEMETERY, LIVE OAK SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA.

 

John William Finn

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