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Posted at 10:27 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Dec. 7, 1941: A Day That Will Live in Infamy

By T. Rees Shapiro


Today is the 69th anniversary of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.

Among those who attempted to repel the surprise attack early on the Sunday morning of Dec. 7, 1941, was Navy Lt. John W. Finn.

Lt. Finn, who died last May at age 100, was then a chief petty officer in charge of aviation ordnance and munitions at the Kaneohe Bay air station 15 miles from Pearl Harbor and Battleship Row.

He was in bed with his wife, Alice, that Sunday when, just before 8 a.m., he heard the rumble of low-flying aircraft and sporadic machine gun fire coming from the hangar a mile away.

When he arrived at the Kaneohe Bay station, Lt. Finn commandeered a heavy-caliber machine gun and set it up on a makeshift tripod of spare pipes -- out in the open, where he had a clear view to give the Japanese what he called a "warm welcome."

He fired at wave after wave of strafing Japanese Zeroes for more than 2 1/2 hours, because, as he later said, "I didn't have enough sense to come in out of the rain."

He was credited with bringing down one plane on his own, but he played down his achievement. "I can't honestly say I hit any," he told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2001. "But I shot at every damn plane I could see."

By the end of the onslaught, Lt. Finn had suffered more than 20 injuries, including a bullet wound in his left arm; a broken left foot; shrapnel to his chest, stomach, right elbow and thumb; and a laceration on his scalp.

Of the 15 Medals of Honor given for acts during the attack on Pearl Harbor, 14 were for rescue attempts. Lt. Finn's award was the only one given for combat.

Please leave your thoughts or memories of Lt. Finn or any other Pearl Harbor participant below.

By T. Rees Shapiro  | December 7, 2010; 10:27 AM ET
Categories:  T. Rees Shapiro  | Tags:  Lt. John W. Finn, Pearl Harbor  
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Comments

Isn't it the 69th year of the attack?

There will never be enough gratitude from the generations of Americans for the bravery, sacrifice, and patriotism of these service men.

Posted by: atkissonjim | December 7, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Lt. Finn and all who answer the call to defend the USA deserve our praise. The author or the typist of this article need to pay closer attention to arithmetic: 1941 was 69 years ago, not 59 ("Today is the 59th anniversary of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.")

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | December 7, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the typo -- the post has been updated to reflect the change.

Posted by: T. Rees Shapiro | December 7, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Just to keep in unanimous 2010-1941=69, not 59.
Indeed its amazing to remember when we fought wars against and enemy we knew.
Today the enemy is us.

Posted by: movette | December 7, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I thank God for the brave men including Lt. Finn who were willing to lay down their lives for this great country of ours. I wish all Americans would realize and respect the great sacrifices that have been made by this and other great American heros.

Posted by: jerry110 | December 7, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Germany has made amends for the evil wrought they wrought under the leadership of the Austrian, Adolf Hitler. Regrettably, Japan has not had the grace nor the moral courage to do the same thing for its acts. How regrettable that this great and ancient kingdom has not seen fit to wash the tarnish off itself. What are they afraid of? Because to do this will bring everlasting honor and respect to Japan for times everlasting.

C. ALEXANDER BROWN

Posted by: calexanderbrown | December 7, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I thank God for the brave men including Lt. Finn who were willing to lay down their lives for this great country of ours. I wish all Americans would realize and respect the great sacrifices that have been made by this and other great American heros.

Posted by: jerry110 | December 7, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Way to go Chief.

Posted by: ozpunk | December 7, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Dec. 7 I was sixteen, I was reading the funny papers when I heard the announcement.

Nine months later I enlisted in the Navy and spent five years of many engineering duties on several ships.

I have a fond memory of my experiences.

We won a war, something the Uniteds States has forgot how to do.

Posted by: flippo10 | December 7, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Amen - way to go Chief. Thank God we have brave men like him.

Posted by: steven7753 | December 7, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

My great uncle was a Sailor on an oiler there that day. He had just come topside for duty when the bombing started. He was thrown off into the water and swam underwater until he ran out of breath. When he came up, he realized had he been thrown the other direction, he would have come up in the middle of burning oil. Talk about Divine intervention!

Posted by: ukcatfan | December 7, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I remember John Finn from appearances in many Pearl Harbor dcumentaries, and thought him a good man, and probably a good man with a Browning. The Navy, Marine and Army personnel, and civilians, on Oahu that terrible day had one helluva start to their Sunday morning, and too many did not make it to the next day, but they did us proud, even if the nation was unprepared. All answered the call in their way that day, and the people in the Philippines and on Guam and Wake when their time came and things were stacked against them, and that's enough to make a person a hero in my book. Angels speed thee to thy rest, John Finn, and Dorie Miller, and all who have gone ahead.

Posted by: jcrisp2 | December 7, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

My dad was also stationed at NAS Kaneohe Bay on December 7, 1941 and survived the attack. He passed away on September 27th this year, just making it to his 97th birthday. On that day, he was headed back to the barracks after the night shift when he saw the Japanese planes coming in for a bombing. He too, fired on the incoming planes with a machine gun even after being thrown back several feet by exploding bombs. He was untouched by the shrapnel, even though the cars in the nearby parking lot were riddled with it. We still have the watch he had on that day, which stopped from the force of explosion. I am so proud of my dad - he was willing to give his life to defend our freedom. He was a good man.

Posted by: fellowhuman | December 7, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Those who served at Pearl Harbor have the thanks of a grateful nation. I hope my service did honor to these men and all who gave their lives in the service of their country.

Posted by: arancia12 | December 7, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse


God Bless the United States Navy.

Posted by: screwjob22 | December 7, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I was 12 yrs old that fateful Sunday, and will never forget the neighbors an heroes like John Finn who fought (with many wounded and/or dying in the Pacific.

One Horrible fact that is just emerging in our examination of History, is that our Nation's views, especially in Teddy Roosevelt's era was that we, as the superior Aryan-White race had the "manifest destiny" to expand and subjugate the Western United States, Then the Philippine Islands. WORSE - -the murders, tortures, water-boarding and rape committed against some hundred thousand Philippine Natives ("monkey men") makes Japan's rape of Nanking look like a Picnic.

you won't ever find that Horrible part of our past (when White males were the ONLY group who could vote, sit on Juries, hold public office) mentioned or admitted to by Beck/Limbaugh/Hannity/Palin/Gingrich or the Texas School Text Book Committee.

And yes, I served 5 volunteer yrs as a Naval Aviator, 1953-57.

Some Facts in our past are very disturbing, but shouldn't be ignored and whitewashed by revisionists like Gingrich.

Posted by: lufrank1 | December 7, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

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