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Adapted from "Lieutenant John W. Finn, United States Navy, Retired" [biography, dated 16 March 1967] in Modern Biographical Files collection, Navy Department Library.

  • Aviation
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  • Biography
Wars & Conflicts
  • World War II 1939-1945
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  • NHHC-Library

John William Finn

23 July 1909-27 May 2010

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John William Finn was born in Los Angeles, California, on July 23, 1909. He served continuously as an enlisted man in the Navy from July 29, 1926, when he was first sworn in, until he was appointed Ensign, for temporary service, to rank from June 15, 1942. Subsequently, he was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade), to date from May 1, 1943, and Lieutenant, to rank from July 1, 1944. On March 28, 1947, upon his transfer to the Fleet Reserve, he received to the rate of Aviation Chief Ordnance man. On September 1, 1956, he was transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy and was advanced to Lieutenant the highest rank he held while on active duty.

“For heroism during the Japanese attack on Hawaii on December 7, 1941, he was awarded the Medal of Honor with citation as follows: “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 at Kaneohe Bay, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, he promptly secured and manned a machine gun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machine strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attack 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 remaining of returning planes…”

After receiving his commission in 1942, he served with Bombing Squadron One Hundred Two until March 31, 1942, then was assigned to the Naval Air Technical Training Center, Norman, Oklahoma. In August 1943 he reported for training at the Aerial Free Gunnery Instructors School, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, and from September to November 1943 had further training at the Naval Training School, Briggs Manufacturing Company, Detroit, Michigan and the Naval Technical Training Center, Chicago, Illinois.

Following brief assignment at the Naval Air Stations, Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, he reported in April 1945 on board USS Hancock (CV-19). He served in that aircraft carrier, participating in the Third Fleet operations against Japan, until December 1946, when he was ordered to the Naval Training Center, San Diego, California, for separation processing. Hospitalized until January 1947, he was transferred to the Fleet Reserve on March 28, 1947 and on April 18, that year, was relieved of active duty.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Lieutenant Finn has the Purple Heat Medal (for wounds received in enemy action); American Defense Service Medal, Base Clasp; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; and the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp. For enlisted service he has a Good Conduct Medal with two bronze stars.


Published: Thu May 13 10:38:59 EDT 2021