On May 27th, 2010, the United States lost another World War II veteran when former Chief Petty Officer and centenarian John William Finn passed away. More than just a former sailor who served his nation, John Finn served during one of the United States’ darkest times – the attack on Pearl Harbor. Stationed at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, Finn was the chief aviation ordnanceman in charge of a 20-man team responsible for the upkeep of the weaponry of the VP-11 PBY Catalina flying boat squadron.
Finn survived the attack despite sustaining multiple wounds during his own personal assault on Japanese fighters with a .50 caliber machine gun. Even after he was shot by incoming fire and sustained other injuries, Finn only sought medical attention under the orders of a superior officer.
On September 14th, 1942, serving as Limited Duty Officer, Finn became the first person in World War II to receive a Medal of Honor. He retired from the Navy in 1956, and eventually became the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient who had survived Pearl Harbor. At the time of his retirement, Finn had earned the rank of lieutenant.
In July of 2017, John Finn is scheduled to receive another incredible honor for his service at Pearl Harbor and during World War II.
The Navy’s New Vessel
In honor of the sailor’s service to his country and the sacrifices made to protect his fellow Americans during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy will be commissioning a new destroyer named after the former Chief Petty Officer.
Ordered in June of 2011, the John Finn was launched in March of 2015 and christened in May of the same year. On July 15th, the Navy will put into service the USS John Finn (DDG-113). The ship was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries and will be based out of San Diego. The John Finn was first delivered in time for the 75th anniversary of the attack in 2016.
The Arleigh Burke-class is the 63rd of its kind, the first DDG 51 Flight IIA and is equipped with Aegis Baseline 9 combat systems, Integrated Air and Missile Defense, Ballistic Missile Defense 5.0, Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air, and anti-nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare protection. The John Finn also saw major improvements in the computer power and radar capabilities over older models, making it a vessel fit to be named after such a brave and accomplished member of the United States military.
The Ships of Pearl Harbor
While the John Finn is newly-commissioned, several battleships present at Pearl Harbor have long since been removed from service. Though some have been sold for scrap, others, like the USS Arizona, can still be viewed at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor.
Unlike the John Finn, the Arizona lies at the bottom of the harbor, destroyed by Japan’s attacking forces. The memorial above allows guests to peer into the wreckage, while the Battleship Missouri provides a hands-on experience of life aboard a battleship. Visitors are able to walk along the decks and see where Japan signed the final surrender documents that ended World War II, relieving men like John Finn from the lengthy conflict.