Tags: US | Obit | War | Hero

Oldest Medal of Honor Recipient From WWII Dies

Thursday, 27 May 2010 07:25 PM

 

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Retired Navy Lt. John Finn, the oldest Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, died Thursday at a nursing home for veterans in Southern California. He was 100.

Finn enlisted in the Navy just before his 17th birthday and went on to become the first man to receive the nation's highest military award for heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, according to a Navy statement.

He was oldest of 97 Medal of Honor recipients still living.

Despite head wounds and other injuries, Finn, the chief of ordnance for an air squadron, continuously fired a .50-caliber machine gun from an exposed position as bullets and bombs pounded the Naval Air Station at Kaneohe Bay in Oahu. He then supervised the rearming of returning American planes.

"Here they're paying you for doing your duty, and that's what I did," Finn told The Associated Press before his 100th birthday. "I never intended to be a hero. But on Dec. 7, by God, we're in a war."

Finn received the Medal of Honor on Sept. 15, 1942, from then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

He later served as a limited duty officer specializing in anti-aircraft guns in San Diego, Hawaii, Washington, Panama and aboard aircraft carriers, the Navy said.

He retired in 1956 after three decades of service, but he continued to help young sailors and stayed active in Navy organizations, Lt. Aaron Kakiel said.

"He's been a real inspiration to a number of our aviation ordnance men and an example for the entire Navy," he said.

Born July 23, 1909, in Los Angeles, Finn lived for 50 years on his ranch near Live Oak Springs, outside San Diego.

Finn died at the Veterans Home of California in Chula Vista, the Navy said. Officials initially said he had died at his ranch.

He will be buried with full military honors. Kakiel said the Navy was still working with his family members on the details.

(This version CORRECTS place of death to nursing home in Chula Vista, not Finn's Spring Valley ranch.)

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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