A Great American Hero

Lt. John W. Finn, U.S.N.


Alice & John Finn

John W. Finn

Alice & John Finn

 At the time of the attack on Hawaii by the Japanese, John W. Finn was a Chief Aviation Ordnanceman, attached to PBY Flying Boat Squadron at Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay,  Oahu, Hawaii.  Kaneohe Bay is on the north side of Oahu and was the first base to be attacked in Hawaii just minutes before Peal Harbor on Sunday morning, December 7,1941.

When the attack started, John drove from his home at base housing to the airfield in the midst of the bombing and strafing by Japanese aircraft, and proceeded to organize his men in the chaos and destruction of burning plans and falling bombs into a fighting defensive force.  He personally fought the attacking aircraft while firing a 50 caliber machine gun from an instruction stand that was exposed and in the open, on the aircraft parking ramp, occasionally diving for cover when directly attacked by strafing aircraft.  He continued to man his 50 caliber machine gun during the attack on the Air Station with telling effect while receiving twenty-one separate shrapnel wounds, some serious, from enemy aircraft fire and exploding bombs.

Following the attack, while wounded and in pain, he organized the air station sailors into defensive positions around Kaneohe Naval Air Station in anticipation of the Japanese landing ground military forces on the island which fortunately did not happen.  The wounded Chief Finn was intent on staying with his men and defending the base and rearming aircraft he did not leave his post until ordered off the base to seek medical attention. 

His Medal of Honor Citation reads in full … (Full Medal of Honor 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, 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.”

 Lt. John W. Finn has been active in the Medal of Honor Society, The Association of Aviation Ordnancemen, several carrier and battleship societies and other organizations.  While John retired with a battlefield commission of Lieutenant, he always considered himself, first and foremost, a Chief Aviation Ordnanceman and has participated in many ceremonies for newly promoted Navy Chiefs.

While Lt. John W. Finn’s passing marks a milestone in that… “day which will live in infamy”… John would not want us to forget the sacrifices of all of the American men and woman of the “Greatest American Generation”, past and present, who served in the defense of freedom during the Second World War.  John Finn, being the humble man that he was, never considered himself a hero for his actions on December 7th.  He always said,… “I was just doing my duty.”

Respected and loved by all who knew him, God bless the memory of John W. Finn and all who served.