Navy To Commission Ship Honoring WWII's First Medal Of Honor Recipient

news
U.S. Navy photo

Just over 75 years ago, John Finn manned a machine gun for two hours firing at Japanese planes strafing him and attacking Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay on Oahu.


On the other side of the island, a fleet of aircraft laid waste to Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. On the windward side the island, planes ravaged Finn’s body with almost two dozen wounds.

A Marine Corps chief aviation ordnanceman, Finn was awarded the first Medal of Honor of World War II. He survived the attack and his wounds, living to the ripe age of 100 when he died in 2010.

On Saturday, the Navy will commission the USS John Finn, its latest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer.

“It’s incredibly humbling to be here and be in charge of this great ship,” Cmdr. Micheal Wagner told reporters Thursday while standing on the dock beside the ship. “I mean, the namesake, John Finn, was such a great American. Anybody who’s ever met him – he was very humble. He didn’t think he was a hero, just thought that he was in the right place at the right time to do that.

“I think that fighting spirit is going to live in this ship,” Wagner said.

The ship will be homeported in San Diego, but given Finn’s immortal connection with Hawaii, officials decided it was fitting to commission it here.

The ship’s sponsor will be Laura Stavridis, the wife of retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.

Its name was chosen by former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

Weighing just over 9,100 tons, the Finn was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Miss. Carrying a crew of roughly 300, it is just over 500 feet long and driven by four turbines and two propellers for a top speed of about 35 mph.

“Handles like a dream,” Wagner said.

This is the first missile destroyer to be built from the keel up with the Aegis Weapons System that combines air and missile defenses, he said.

“It can do integrated air and missile defense, meaning you can do air defense and ballistic missile defense at the same time,” he said. “That takes a lot of computing power, and this ship is built with that.”

Several other ships have been retrofitted with that capability, he said.

After the commissioning, the Finn will head for southern California for qualification trials during which its combat systems will be tested with live fire.

On the morning of the 1941 surprise attack, Finn was at his home about a mile from the Marine Corps aircraft hangars. He raced to the scene of the attack, taking over a 50-caliber machine gun manned by painter, telling him that he had more training in firing it.

Adm. Chester Nimitz personally presented him the Medal of Honor in September 1942 aboard the USS Enterprise while at Pearl Harbor.

Finn retired from the Navy in 1956 as a lieutenant.

He was the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Pearl Harbor attack.

One wall in the enlisted dining area of the Finn is devoted to a mural depicting Finn’s wife, Alice, inspecting the Medal of Honor adorning the then-young sailor’s chest. Behind them are the mountains that stand in the center of Oahu.

A painting portrays Finn manning his machine gun as black smoke billows from damaged planes at the Marine Corps air station.

Mrs. Finn, who died in 1998, holds another place of honor on the ship’s bow. The 5-inch cannon there is called the Alice Gun, and her oversized signature is scrawled across the turret.

———

©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid $13,000 over a three-month period for a senior official's biweekly commute to Washington from his home in California, according to expense reports obtained by ProPublica.

Read More Show Less
Saturday Night Live/screenshot

President Donald Trump said that "retribution" should be "looked into" after this week's opening skit of Saturday Night Live featured Alec Baldwin being mean to him again.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. John Eller conducts pre-flights check on his C-17 Globemaster III Jan. 3 prior to taking off from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii for a local area training mission. Sgt. Eller is a loadmaster from the 535th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

CUCUTA, Colombia — The Trump administration ratcheted up pressure Saturday on beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, dispatching U.S. military planes filled with humanitarian aid to this city on the Venezuelan border.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaks at the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.

President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border without congressional approval.

Read More Show Less
A pair of U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat aircraft from Fighter Squadron VF-211 Fighting Checkmates in flight over Iraq in 2003/Department of Defense

Since the sequel to the 1986 action flick (and wildly successful Navy recruitment tool) Top Gun, was announced, there's been a lot of speculation on what Top Gun: Maverick will be about when it premieres in June 2020. While the plot is still relatively unclear, we know Tom Cruise will reprise his role as Naval aviator Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, and he'll be joined by a recognizable costar: The iconic F-14 Tomcat.

It looks like the old war plane will be coming out of retirement for more than just a cameo. A number of recently surfaced photos show an F-14 Tomcat aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, alongside Cruise and members of the film's production crew, the Drive's Tyler Rogoway first reported earlier this week.

Read More Show Less