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John W. Finn was a Medal of Honor recipient from the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 70 years ago. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on September 15, 1942 by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz aboard USS Enterprise.
Finn born July 24th 1909 in Los Angeles, CA. joined the Navy in July 1926 at age seventeen. In July 1927, John was assigned to Naval Air Station, North Island Ordnance Division and became an official ordnanceman working on four 3"50 caliber anti-aircraft gun emplacements.
Finn was a Navy ordnance CPO who is depicted in the motion picture, "Tora! Tora! Tora!". In the classic film he is seen standing inside a sandbag emplacement, firing a 50-cal. machine gun at Japanese fighters and bombers swooping low over Kaneohe Bay and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on that fateful morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
Finn was awakened shortly after dawn by the sounds of low flying aircraft diving over CPO housing, where he and his lovely wife Alice were residing, on the heights overlooking the bay adjoining Pearl Harbor.
"They say Pearl Harbor was struck at 7:55 a.m., that Sunday morning," said Finn "But I remember waking up under the drone of low-flying aircraft, looked at my watch I had ,and it was exactly 7:50 a.m. I never forgot that. With my next door neighbor and friend Chief Eddie 'Sulli' Sullivan beside me, I drove hell-bent-for-election down the peninsula to the PBY hangars. Japanese planes were strafing the hell out of the place. Their wing guns were peppering everything - parked cars, parked aircraft, the hangars, and anything that moved. I was the sole ordnance chief with VP-11. We were based in a new hangar right next to the bay. I remember yelling to Sulli that this was no mock training attack. That's what I first thought was happening when I woke up. When I saw a dull, red meatball on one of the fighters passing over us I yelled, " Sulli, this is the real McCoy."
Finn said two of the newer Catalina's delivered from the states had taken off at dawn for a reconnaissance mission because his squadron had been assigned the weekend patrol duty. He said some of his men had spent the night in the hang getting the patrol planes ready for a dawn takeoff. He said when arrived in the area, two or three of his men had stripped machine guns off other PBY's and were finding places to mount them to fire on the Japanese attackers.
"I remember some lulls during the attack," Finn said. "I fired 30-calibers and 50s 'til I ran out of ammunition. Then I even found a 3-0-3 British Vicker gun, and a Lewis gun . . . . anything I could get my hands on. I was mad. Mad as hell," said, Finn. "We had one gun mount on that apron, and a light-metal gun frame used only for training. I had wanted gun mounts built all around the rim of the hangar, but my request had been delayed because of paper work.
Finn had suffered multiple wounds during his actions against the enemy. His Medal of Honor citation reads that despite the number of enemy shrapnel that peppered his body, he fought on, and declined medical treatment until his men were treated and evacuated. As for the Medal of Honor, Finn still asks, "Why me? Why me, when so many men did more than I did? Many, many others lost their lives. I wear this medal for them. Never would I ever disgrace this honor, or those who died around me."
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