America, San Diego Say Goodbye to War Hero

By Eric S. Page, R. Stickney and Greg Bledsoe
|  Thursday, Jun 3, 2010  |  Updated 3:30 PM PDT
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America, San Diego Say Goodbye to War Hero

Greg Bledsoe

Longtime San Diegan Lt. John Finn, who was the first man to receive a Medal of Honor in World War II, was buried with full military honors on Thursday.

Finn passed away May 27 in San Diego, where he'd been living for more than 50 years, at age 100.

On Thursday, Finn was laid to rest on the Campo Indian Reservation, next to his wife of 60-plus years. The ceremony was attended by hundreds of mourners. During the services members of the military gave Finn a 21-gun salute, performed Taps, and there was a flyover of jet flying in the missing-man formation.

Among the luminaries at the event were Cmdr. Ronald Ritter and Rep. Duncan Hunter.

"It's an end to an era that was a courageous, heroic era that I don't think a lot of people in this country understand anymore," Finn's niece Bethany Falefitu said. "They really should, because they did so much for our country, and my uncle was the first one to tell you that the people who died at Pearl Harbor were the heroes not him."

Her sentiments echoed comments made last week by Navy Capt. David Lepard.

"We lost a national treasure and a national hero today,"  Lepard said. "It's really touching his death occurred on Memorial Day Weekend and he'll never be forgotten."

Finn was not only the first but also for many years the oldest Medal of Honor recipient from WWII. He lived on a ranch not far from Oak Springs.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Finn manned a machine gun in the open, fully exposed to enemy fire. He was shooting at and hitting Japanese planes even while he was being hit.

"My chest and my belly and my arm and foot were penetrated by shrapnel," Finn told About San Diego's Ken Kramer in 2008.

Finn's Medal of Honor was approved by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt on Sept. 15, 1942.

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