100 year old Medal of Honor winner dies

Consider that this is Memorial Day weekend.

With a biretta tip to Sancte Pater this from the San Diego Union Tribune.

John Finn, hero at Pearl Harbor, dies at 100

Ex-sailor was oldest living Medal of Honor recipient


Originally published May 27, 2010

John Finn, the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, whose modest demeanor and lifestyle belied his legendary status as an American hero, died Thursday at age 100 at a Chula Vista veterans home.

He was assigned to Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay on Dec. 7, 1941, when he found himself firing at Japanese planes from an exposed position for more than two hours despite being hit 21 times by bomb and bullet fragments.

The longtime East County resident was credited by some with single-handedly shooting down a Japanese aircraft, but he would later say, “I can’t honestly say (for sure) I hit any, but I shot at every damn plane I could see.”

He was believed to be one of the first Americans to take up arms against the Japanese when they bombed the naval base and nearby Pearl Harbor, an attack that brought the United States into World War II.


During the attack, Finn secured a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a training stand in an exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy machine-gun fire from Japanese planes, the citation says.

It continues, “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.”

Finn didn’t leave his post until getting a direct order to seek medical attention. He later said that when he got to the sick bay, he saw many men worse off than he was, so he returned to the armory and spent the rest of the day and night supervising the repair of damaged weapons in preparation for whatever came next.

“I know this sounds corny, but on December 7, I was just doing my duty and what I had been trained and paid to do since I was 17 years old,” he said in his 1984 San Diego Union interview.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. A great man. Interesting that this should be in the magazine section of the New York Times today:


  2. Stu says:

    Fair winds, shipmate.

  3. Andy Lucy says:

    Fair winds and following seas, Lieutenant Finn.

  4. pyrosapien says:

    The Navy Hymn:

    Eternal Father, strong to save,
    Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
    Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
    Its own appointed limits keep;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

    O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
    And hushed their raging at Thy word,
    Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
    And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

    Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
    Upon the chaos dark and rude,
    And bid its angry tumult cease,
    And give, for wild confusion, peace;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

    O Trinity of love and power!
    Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
    From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
    Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
    Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
    Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

    R.I.P. Lt. Finn

  5. wanda says:

    Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and may the souls of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to God and country, rest in peace. Amen.

  6. Peggy R says:

    God bless him.

    I was shocked for quite a while last year to read of the death of a former professional associate in Iraq, I think on Memorial Day, last year. I had not seen him in years and no idea of his character in this regard. He was working through the State Dept as a civilian and had done a couple of tours of duty in Iraq. He was killed by an IED. May he and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.

    Fr Augustine’s link is interesting. The reliance on forensics is disappointing and reminds me of the scientific attempts to explain away biblical miracles.

  7. curtjester says:

    I met with and had lunch with John Finn 20 years ago. He was invited to give a speech a the Naval Weapon Station at Indian Head, Md for a conference on weapons training I was part of. I had heard that Medal of Honor winners were very humble men and this was true in spades for John Finn.

  8. Bryan says:

    Realize this is picky (and it’s a common mistake..), but they are not MOH ‘winners’.

    They’re properly called ‘recipients’. None of them that I know (and I’ve had the honor to meet 2 of them in my life…gentlemen both, and humble beyond words…) consider that they ‘won’ anything…;)

  9. kittenchan says:

    “with complete disregard for his own personal safety”

    And to think that now there are medals awarded to soldiers who back down from combat so that no one gets hurt…

  10. pyrosapien says:


    just to ensure nobody is confused by your comments, and to ensure that no disgrace or dishoner is done to the “Medal Of Honor” or any of her recipients, you are most assuredly not referring to a person receiving the MOH because they had “…back[ed] down from combat so that no one gets hurt.”

    please go visit the MOH website and read the citations from the 6 MOH recipients from Iraq/Afghanistan. Take particular note Lt. Michael P. Murphy USN(SEAL).


    There have always been medals awarded for things other than combat. Do you have a particular incident or example in mind?

  11. irishgirl says:

    Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

    pyrosapien-thank you for posting the words of the Navy Hymn! My eyes tear up when I read the words and hear the tune!

    My late father served in the South Pacific in World War II. His ship, the USS Santa Fe [Holy Faith], was involved in the rescue of the USS Franklin, which was attacked off the coast of Japan on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19, 1945. He was very proud of his Naval service.

  12. Peggy R says:


    The military is considering an award for holding fire, which could be suicidal.

    The most significant reply I can offer to such a proposal is that I have heard Rocky Sickman, retired Marine and Iran hostage. I’ve heard him on STL area radio several times. His greatest regret is that he held fire. What might have been different had the Marines shot back at the radicals storming our embassy?

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