The December 7, 1941, Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor lasted about 90 minutes, killing 2,333 American military personnel and wounding 1,139 others.
The initial targets were U.S. airfields, to prevent a U.S. counter-attack by air. The first Medal of Honor awarded in World War II went to a sailor who defended one of those airfields. His name was John William Finn.
A day after the attack the U.S. declared war on Japan.
Born on July 24, 1909 in Los Angeles, California, Finn was a then-32-year-old chief petty officer in charge of guns and bombs for the planes at Naval Air Station Keneohe Bay. Once he learned of the attack he raced from his home and wife to the base.
Finn’s Medal of Honor citation states: “During the first attack by Japanese airplanes he 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, (shot in foot and shoulder) 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 had to be ordered to go for medical treatment and his wounds kept him in the hospital until Dec. 24.
Admiral Chester Nimitz presented Finn with the first World War II Medal of Honor 75 years ago on Sept. 14, 1942.
Finn served in the Navy from 1926 to 1956 and retired as a lieutenant. He lived to the age of 100 before he died in Chula Vista in 2010.
Only five men of the 15 men awarded the MOH for their actions on Dec. 7, 1941 survived the attack. Most died while saving men on ships attacked in the harbor. There were 51 Navy Cross recipients.
The above image shows John Finn and wife Alice, 1942.
The U.S. Navy launched a destroyer called the USS John Finn in 2015. You can read about here.
A costly day
Totals for the Pearl…