The 78th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th, 1941 took place recently. This article is related to that remembrance and to the delivery of the newest of the Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyers to the United States Navy. It will be known as the USS John Finn (DDG-113).
The USS John Finn (DDG-113) is the 63rd Arleigh-Burke class destroyer to be built. It has just been released to the Navy by the builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries. She will still have to undergo sea trials and more before she enters the fleet. She is the first in her class to have the new Aegis Weapons System Baseline 9 platform. This system will make her a more versatile warship. She will be able to respond to a multitude of threats. She will provide Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability incorporating Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) 5.0 and Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA).
This ship will be deployable anywhere in the world in either in a Surface Action Group (SAG), or in a Carrier Strike Group (CSG).
The following is the story behind the name that this new destroyer will bear.
At the moment of the attack on Pearl Harbor that bright, early Sunday morning 78 years ago, Chief Aviation Ordinanceman John Finn was at home engaged in a minor kerfuffle with his wife as to who was going to make the coffee that morning. When he heard about the attack, he got into his car and ‘put the pedal to the metal’ to get to his duty station at Naval Air Station, Kane’ohe Bay, which is on the windward side of Oahu, the other side of the island. The environment he raced into at Kane’ohe that morning was nothing less than active, unfolding chaos.
When he arrived at the Naval Air Station, he immediately took over a .30 caliber machine gun from the squadron’s painter. He took aim and fired at the oncoming waves of Japanese planes until he finally left the .30 cal. gun to man a .50 cal. Browning machine gun from an exposed position on the open runway. He stayed at that weapon throughout the first attack even though he suffered a total of some 21 shrapnel wounds that were the result of the strafing Japanese fighter-bomber planes.
Finn was finally persuaded to go for medical attention when things quieted down, but we are told that he left the medical aid station while he was being treated to help other wounded sailors on the base and to prepare for a possible second attack.
On Sept. 14, 1942, aboard the USS Enterprise, Chief Aviation Ordinanceman Finn was personally awarded the Medal of Honor by Admiral Chester Nimitz himself, “For his ingenuity, selflessness and devotion” during the ferocious and devastating Japanese aerial attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
This was the first Medal of Honor awarded in WWII.
Finn was also commissioned as an Ensign in 1942, moving from the enlisted to the officer ranks. He would retire in 1956 at the rank of Lieutenant. Finn was quoted as saying about the MOH, “Here they’re paying you for doing your duty, and that’s what I did…I never intended to be a hero. But on December 7th, by God, we were in a war.”
Finn, who had joined the U.S. Navy in 1926 and would serve a total of 30 years on active duty. At the time of his death in 2010, he was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient.
The Veterans Site honors the memory of Chief Aviation Ordinanceman John Finn. He was an extraordinary sailor in service to his country in its most difficult of times. We believe that he now knows the true meaning of the Navy Motto: “Fair Winds and Following Seas.”
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.