December 7, 1942 certainly did go down as an infamous day in our history. On that sunny Sunday the peaceful, tropical paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, erupted in flames under the fierce and highly coordinated attack of bombers and torpedo planes off of Japanese carriers.
In an all too brief period of time the American fleet, especially its fleet of battleships was devastated in the waters of Pearl Harbor. The Naval Air Station at Kaneohe Bay was also hit hard. Most of the planes were caught on the ground and destroyed.
With that bold act, a new theater of battle opened up in WWII, making it a truly world-wide war.
At the time of the attack, John Finn was a Chief Aviation Ordinanceman. He was already an old salt, with several years of service in the U.S. Navy. He was married and was living with his wife in that island paradise duty station.
On that day he would engage in heroic efforts manning a machine gun post and giving as much hell as he could to the attacking Japanese planes. Throughout the duration of the attack, he kept up a fierce defense of his buddies and the air base itself.
Though he was struck by shrapnel over 20 times, he did not cease firing, or running back and forth to get ammunition for himself and the other machine gun crews. His actions that day would make him the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in WWII.
The Medal of Honor ceremonies took place on Sept. 14, 1942 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise at Pearl Harbor. The medal was pinned on him by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Finn was very proud of that.
On July 15 of this year, the U.S. Navy’s newest guided-missile destroyer will be commissioned with the name of John Finn. The commissioning will take place, appropriately, at Pearl Harbor. The hull of the future USS John Finn (DDG-113) was christened at a ceremony held where she was built in Pascagoula, Mississippi on May 2, 2015. The new ship bearing this honored and heroic name will be stationed out of San Diego, CA.
John Finn retired from the Navy in 1956, after three decades of faithful service to the Navy and the United States of America. He died in 2010 at the age of 100.
The Veterans Site wishes to honor the memory of John Finn and to offer our condolences to his family. May you be enjoying fair winds and following seas, good sailor.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.