Finrow, John Henry, LT

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Last Rank
Last Primary NEC
131X-Unrestricted Line Officer - Pilot
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1943-1944, 131X, VB-13
Service Years
1941 - 1944

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This Military Service Page was created/owned by Ruth Linnemeier-Family to remember Finrow, John Henry, LT.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Spokane, WA
Last Address
Spokane, WA

Casualty Date
Oct 25, 1944
Hostile-Body Not Recovered
Air Loss, Crash - Sea
Pacific Ocean
World War II
Location of Interment
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial - Manila, Philippines
Wall/Plot Coordinates

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Last Known Activity

John Finrow enlisted in the Navy on March 13, 1941 and was first stationed at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base in Seattle, WA. At that time he was a S2c. He was then sent to NAS Jacksonville, FL for flight training after which he received his aviator wings and was commissioned as an Ensign.

LT Finrow was a member of Bombing Squadron 13 (VB-13) stationed aboard the USS Franklin (CV-13). On October 25, 1944 his plane was shot down during combat. His body was not recovered. He was listed as missing in action and later declared dead.

Service numbers: Enlisted - 5100558   Officer - 112310

Navy Cross
Awarded for Actions During World War II
Service: Navy
Battalion: Bombing Squadron 13 (VB-13)
Division: U.S.S. Franklin (CV-13)
Citation: The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant John Henry Finrow (NSN: 0-112310), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Scout Dive Bomber in Bombing Squadron THIRTEEN (VB-13), attached to the U.S.S. FRANKLIN (CV-13), in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Sibuyan Sea during the Air Battle of Leyte Gulf on 24 October 1944. Lieutenant Finrow fought his plane boldly and with relentless determination despite accurate and intense anti-aircraft fire during a brilliantly executed attack on the Japanese battleship MUSASHI, making a direct hit which caused serious damage. By his superb flying ability, indomitable fighting spirit and cool courage, maintained at great personal risk, Lieutenant Finrow contributed immeasurably to the extensive and costly damage inflicted on the Japanese fleet in this vital war area. His conduct throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
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Leyte Campaign (1944)/Battle of Cape Engano
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he battle of Cape Engano (25 October 1944) was a one-sided American victory that saw Admiral Halsey's 3rd Fleet sink four Japanese aircraft carriers, but at the same time exposing the invasion shipping in Leyte Gulf to a possible Japanese attack.

The Japanese had long realised that an American conquest of the Philippines would cut their empire in half, isolating their main sources of fuel in the south. Accordingly they decided to fight the 'decisive battle' of the war in the Philippines, using just about every available naval unit. Admiral Ozawa's Main Force was to sail from Japan, where new naval aviators had been training, and approach the American fleet from the north. In the final version of the plan his role was to draw the powerful American 3rd Fleet away from the invasion fleet, leaving them vulnerable to an attack by other Japanese forces approaching from the west.

Admiral Ozawa started the battle with four carriers, two battleships that had been converted to carry some aircraft, three cruisers and eight destroyers. The four carriers were something of a mixed bag. The best of them was the Zuikaku, a veteran of the attack on Pearl Harbor and one of the best Japanese carriers of the war. The other three were less impressive. Zuiho was a light carrier produced during 1940 by converting a submarine support ship. Chitose and Chiyoda were sister ships produced by modifying seaplane carriers. Work on the conversions began in the aftermath of the battle of Midway and they arrived in service in late 1943-early 1944.

The two battleships were the Ise and Hyuga, both of First World War vintage. After Midway their rear turrets had been removed and a short flight deck installed. Neither ship was carrying any aircraft at Leyte Gulf.

Halsey's 3rd Fleet contained fifteen fleet carriers, seven modern fast battleships, twenty one cruisers and fifty eight destroyers. His orders were to protect the landing fleets at Leyte Gulf but also to seek out a chance to defeat and destroy the Japanese fleet.

On 24 October the Americans detected all of the incoming Japanese fleets (although Ozawa's carriers weren’t found until quite late in the day). Halsey launched a series of air strikes on the most powerful of the surface fleets, Admiral Kurita's I Striking Force. This contained the Musashi and Yamato, the two most powerful battleships in the world, but during the day the Musashi was sunk by repeated air attacks. Kurita briefly turned back to avoid further attacks while passing through the narrow San Bernardino Straits. This, combined with a belief that Kurita had suffered more damage than he had, convinced Halsey that the Japanese battleships no longer represented a serious threat and could be dealt with by the old battleships and escort carriers of Admiral Kinkaid's 7th Fleet. In contrast four Japanese aircraft carriers posed a potentially very serious threat to the invasion fleet, and so at 20.00 Halsey ordered his entire fleet to move north.

At this point the American command structure broke down. Halsey created a new Task Force 34, under Admiral Lee. This force, of four battleships and a large number of cruisers, might be used to engage Kurita if he passed through the San Bernardino Strait. As Halsey didn't expect this to happen Lee's ships were taken north with him. Unfortunately Kinkaid heard this message and assumed that Task Force 34 was being left behind to watch Kurita. Kinkaid thus felt free to move his six old battleships south to deal with Nishimura's fleet heading for the Surigao Strait. Kinkaid was not the only person to make this assumption - Admiral Nimitz back on Hawaii also believed that Task Force 34 was watching the San Bernardino Strait.

At 2.2am Admiral Mitscher's scout plans find the Japanese carriers. The first of a series of air strikes went in at about 8am. The few Japanese aircraft left were quickly destroyed and in this first attack the light carrier Chitose was sunk and the fleet carrier Zuikaku hit by a torpedo. The second attack was unopposed and the Chiyoda was badly damaged. At about the same time Halsey received the first in a series of messages from Kinkaid requesting urgent help. Kurita's powerful battleships had indeed emerged from the San Bernardino Strait and turned south to head for Leyte Gulk. Instead they ran into six of Kinkaid's escort carriers and a desperate running battle began (Battle of Samar). Over the next two hours Kinkaid sent two more increasingly urgent requests for help, but Halsey refused to be budged. He was dealing with the most dangerous Japanese fleet and Kinkaid would have to cope by himself (to be fair to Halsey by the time the second and third messages arrived Kurita had withdrawn from combat with the escort carriers, but it was still at large).

At around 10am Halsey received a message from Nimitz, 'Where is repeat where is Task Force thirty-four'. Unfortunately some padding added to increase security was erroneously left in the final message, so Halsey read ' Where is repeat where is Task Force thirty-four rr The World Wonders'. Halsey was furious, but he did finally send one of his three carrier task groups south to try and help Kinkaid.

The remaining carriers launched a third strike on the Japanese carriers at 1.10pm. This time Zuikaku and Zuiho were both set on fire. Zuiho managed to keep going, but Zuikaku was doomed and at 2.07 she sank. The fourth and final American strike finished off the Zuiho. The last Japanese carrier, Chiyoda, was already dead in the water and sank later. The two converted battleships managed to escape, but the Japanese carrier force had been eliminated. Further south Kinkaid's carriers had escaped total destruction through their own efforts, and Kurita had retreated back through the San Bernardino Strait.

Halsey's conduct of the battle has remained controversial. Afterwards he wrote 'At that moment Ozawa was exactly 42 miles from the muzzles of my 16in guns. … I turned my back on the opportunity I had dreamed of since my days as a cadet', a revealing statement that suggests that Halsey was so focused on the chance of engaging in a major gun battle that he ignored the danger to his south.

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  56 Also There at This Battle:
  • Schroder, Erwin, LT, (1942-1963)
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