Archive for the 'Medal of Honor' Tag
The recent 72nd anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor allows for a pause in our chronological narrative of naval history. Fifteen Medals of Honor were awarded to Navy sailors for heroism during that attack, and our object today is one of those medals.
The word “hero” is overused today. But headline writers were correct in using the word this weekend when news broke of the death of Col. Bud Day.
George Everette Day spent five-and-a-half years of the Vietnam War in the infamous Hanoi Hilton POW camp. His courage earned him the Medal of Honor. One media outlet reported, “Colonel Day received the medal for his escape and evasion, brief though it was, and his refusal to yield to his tormentors.”
That’s not the whole story. Bud Day and other POW leaders set aside the temptation to escape – they decided to stay in the Hanoi Hilton – as an even greater act of courage.
While Bud Day did make an escape attempt shortly after he was shot down on August 26, 1967, the truth about escape attempts from the Hanoi Hilton became far more complex in the years following his capture.
Today is the 100th birthday of former Chief Petty Officer and retired Lieutenant John W. Finn. Still known affectionately to many as Chief Finn, he earned the first Medal of Honor of World War II for actions at Kaneohe Bay, Hawai’i, on 7 December 1941. He is the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient.
According to homeofheroes.com, “Kaneohe Bay was attacked five minutes before Pearl Harbor, which some might argue makes John Finn’s actions that day the FIRST Medal of Honor action of World War II. John has never seen himself as a hero. ‘I was just a Good ‘ol Navy man doing my job,’ he says humbly.”
Chief Finn was originally transferred to the Fleet Reserve as a Chief Petty Officer but was later “placed on the Retired List in the rank of Lieutenant.”
Those of us who have had the distinct pleasure of meeting Chief Finn, hearing him tell the story of the fateful day he displayed such unique valor, will never forget it. His account of the attacks on Kaneohe Bay and Pearl Harbor, and his special way of telling it, are fantastic. It’s no wonder a man who fought so hard that day is a centenarian and the oldest living MOH recipient. He is a Navy and national treasure.
Chief Finn’s Medal of Honor citation speaks for itself:
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, KanoeheBay, 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.
See this video from NBC News marking John’s 99th Birthday. To quote the report, “there are men alive today because John Finn was on duty that day.”
- Sea Control 25 – Crimean Crisis
- A History of the Navy in 100 Objects #49: Japanese Bomb Arming Vane
- March 9 Midrats Episode 218: Abolishing of the USAF, with Robert M. Farley
- DEF[x] Annapolis: Encourage the Innovators
- A History of the Navy in 100 Objects #48: Models of HMS St. George (1701) and USS Missouri (1944)