John Finn (AP Photo)
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Retired Navy Lt. John Finn, the oldest Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, died Thursday at his southern California ranch. He was 100.
Finn was the first man to receive the nation's highest military award for heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was the oldest of 97 Medal of Honor recipients still living.
Despite head wounds and other injuries, Finn, the chief of ordnance for an air squadron, continuously fired a .50-caliber machine gun from an exposed position as bullets and bombs pounded the base at Kaneohe Bay in Oahu. He then supervised the rearming of returning American planes.
"Here they're paying you for doing your duty, and that's what I did," Finn told The Associated Press before his 100th birthday. "I never intended to be a hero. But on Dec. 7, by God, we're in a war."
Finn received the Medal of Honor on Sept. 15, 1942, from then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He retired from the Navy in 1947, but continued to help young sailors, Lt. Aaron Kakiel said.
"He's been a real inspiration to a number of our aviation ordnance men and an example for the entire Navy," he said.
Born July 23, 1909, in Los Angeles, Finn lived for 50 years on his ranch near Live Oak Springs, outside San Diego.
He will be buried with full military honors. Kakiel said the Navy was still working with his family members on the details.
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