Tribute to a Hero
by Warren Mass, Editor, The John Birch Society Bulletin
Longtime JBS member John William Finn, who was the last survivor of the 15 Navy veterans who received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, died on May 27. Finn, who retired from the Navy in 1956 with the rank of Lieutenant, was 100 years old.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked Kaneohe Bay, located about 12 miles from Battleship Row at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Finn and his wife, Alice (both of whom joined the Society in the 1960s) were asleep at their quarters about a mile from the base hangers and field when they were awakened by machine gun fire. Finn headed for duty at the base and when he arrived, he would recall years later, he “saw all of our planes on fire and our boys running around all helter skelter and that’s when it hit me. This is the real deal, by golly!”
Finn set up a machine gun on a makeshift tripod out in the open, with nothing protecting him from the attacking pilots. Finn received numerous wounds, including at least four shrapnel wounds to his chest, but he continued firing his gun for more than two hours until the enemy planes departed.
The official citation awarded to Finn with his medal reads:
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.
Arthur R. Thompson, the Chief Executive Officer of The John Birch Society, has fond memories of John Finn, inspired, he said, by the fact that “Finn was more than a war hero — he remained a patriot throughout his life.”
Mr. Thompson shared a favorite memory related to Finn, about the time he visited the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Each ticket to the memorial has a brief biographical tribute to one of the heroes of Pearl Harbor printed on its reverse side. When Thompson purchased his ticket, whose biography did he find printed on the back? John Finn’s!
It is somehow fitting that this noble example of American heroic virtue passed on to meet his Maker just before Memorial Day weekend. Our recollection of John Finn’s sacrifice will remain with us all of our days.
Read also: “John Finn, Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at 100” at JBS.org (http://www.jbs.org/component/content/article/1009-commentary/6317-john-finn-medal-of-honor-recipient-dies-at-100).