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Medal recipient marks 100th birthday


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POSTED: Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kaneohe Marines and sailors celebrated the 100th birthday of World War II's first Medal of Honor recipient, a sailor who fired a machine gun at attacking Japanese planes in 1941.

The ceremony honoring retired Lt. John Finn took place Friday at the building that bears his name at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

Finn, who turned 100 last Sunday, is the only living recipient honored for heroism during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Fifteen Navy men were awarded that distinction.

He was stationed as a chief petty officer at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii—then known as Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay—when it was attacked.

Finn was presented the Medal of Honor on Sept. 15, 1942, by Adm. Chester Nimitz on board the carrier USS Enterprise for promptly manning a 50-caliber machine gun and, “;with complete disregard for his own personal safety,”; firing at enemy planes despite coming under heavy enemy strafing fire.

Finn was awarded the first Medal of Honor during World War II and is the only known aviation ordnanceman to receive that distinction.

Throughout his 30-year military career Finn was awarded eight other medals, including the Purple Heart, before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 1956.

In 1999 the Marine Base dedicated a $9.7 million building to Finn. The building serves as the headquarters for the Pacific Fleet's Patrol and Reconnaissance Force.

Although Finn was unable to travel from his ranch in San Diego County to attend Friday's event, celebrants recognized his life's accomplishments with a video presentation and a cake-cutting ceremony.

“;We are privileged to celebrate what is truly an amazing milestone for anyone (to turn 100) but is extra special to be able to honor a great American hero,”; said >Capt. Rod Urbano, commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2.