Keane observations about life, politics and sports.

Friday, May 28, 2010

An American Hero Lost - Rest in Peace - LT John Finn

Our nation lost a great man yesterday as John Finn took his last breath. You may not have heard about Finn as culturally we tend to mainly celebrate singers, actors and athletes. However, we would be better off if our children got to know about men like Finn as much as Miley Cyrus or LeBron James.

John Finn enlisted in the Navy in July of 1926 and by the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor he was a seasoned Chief Aviation Ordnanceman. On Sunday 7 December 1941, Finn was at home when a neighbor alerted him that he was needed at his squadron. From his Medal of Honor citation this is what followed:
“ 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, Kanoehe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lieutenant Finn 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 were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Finn fully recovered and returned to duty with a bombing squadron onboard USS Hancock (CV-19). After the war, he remained on active duty retiring as a Lieutenant in 1956.

I met Finn a couple of times where he was the guest of honor or speaker at Navy balls or Dining-outs. Despite his past heroics he was a modest and unassuming man. He did not like being labeled a hero and would respond with this comment:
"That damned hero stuff is a bunch crap, I guess. [...] You gotta understand that there's all kinds of heroes, but they never get a chance to be in a hero's position."

Finn turned 100 years old last July. A life well lived. Thank you for your service Lieutenant Finn and may you rest in peace.


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