Klinger's Place

This is a personal place to post things to the Internet related to my hobby of numismatics and items related to my family and friends.

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Location: San Diego, California

I grew up in Lykens, PA, graduated from PENN STATE, and was commissioned in the US Navy in 1961. I spent 30 years in the Navy - finishing as a Captain. I served most of my years in the Submarine Service. I had command of the USS Sam Houston (SSBN 609). I have a wonderful wife (Marilyn), two kids (David & Karolyn), and six grandkids (Kevin, David, Alison, Amber, Richard & Sarah).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Navy Medal of Honor types

There have been four design types of the Navy Medal of Honor. The Navy was the first to introduce the Medal of Honor. This decoration has been awarded to both Navy and Marine members since 1862. The first type was introduced in 1862 and was used until 1913. The Navy's Medal of Honor was the first approved and the first designed. The initial work was done at the Philadelphia Mint at the request of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells. The design prepared by the Philadelphia firm of William Watson & Sons was the design selected. The central design of Minerva repulsing Discord was symbolic of the Civil War and was used on three of the Navy types and was also used for the first two Army types

The second type was used from 1913 to 1942. Note that the rope was removed from the anchor. And, this was the first time the 13 star pattern was introduced on the Navy ribbon.

The third type referred to as the "Tiffany Cross" Medal was introduced in 1919. Prior to WWII the Medal of Honor could be awarded for both combat and non-combat actions. This rare Tiffany type was only awarded for combat actions. The legend in the center reads: UNITED STATES NAVY 1917-1918. It's not clear to me how many were awarded (somewhere between 7 and 27) - for action in WWI.

The fourth type is the modern and present version of the medal and was introduced in 1942. As far as I can determine, the first recipient was Chief Petty Officer John Finn for action early on Pearl Harbor Day (7 December 1941).

But wait! What about the Coast Guard?
Only one coastguardsman was ever awarded the Medal of Honor. He was Signalman First Class (SM 1) Douglas Munro and received the Navy MOH. It happens that I believe that it is SM1 Munro who is the sailor featured on the face of the series 681 MPC $5. [see my blog entry on The Men of Series 681]
A law was passed in 1963 to authorize the Coast Guard to have their own Medal of Honor. No design was ever submitted.

John Finn

As we all know, we are fast loosing our WWII veterans. One such man, and my fellow San Diegan, was John Finn. Today (27 May) he died here in San Diego at the age of 100 years. John was the oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor. He was decorated for action early on Pearl Harbor Day, thus also becoming the first Medal of Honor recipient of WWII.

Born in 1909, John joined the Navy in 1926, and, he could transfix anyone who cared to listen with tales of what it was like to grow up during First World War and to ply the Yangtze River as a young sailor aboard an American gunboat. His stories of that era reminded me of the movie Sand Pebbles.

In 1937, John was on a Navy ship outside the harbor of Shanghai when the Japanese shelled the city and commenced an invasion of mainland China. As the Japanese continued their conquests in Asia in the late 1930s, John felt that one day America would be attacked. How right he was.

On 7 December 1941, as a 32 year old Chief Petty Officer, John was stationed at NAS Kaneohe Bay, with a squadron of Navy patrol planes. "Rudely rousted from his bed by the cacophony of the Japanese bombs destroying the fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, John raced from his quarters, sped to the hangars that housed his aircraft, and manned a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on an exposed section of a parking ramp. For the next two hours, Finn, in the open and suffering from more than twenty shrapnel wounds in his back and stomach, blasted at the enemy planes, hitting many of them and not relinquishing his post until the attack was over." [this from his Medal of Honor citation]

Admiral Nimitz presented the Medal of Honor to John in an emotional ceremony at Pearl Harbor nine months later. He was promoted to LT before the end of the war. [to John's right is his wife Alice, and Admiral "Bull" Halsey]

Even when we were young, those of us who were raised on stirring John Wayne war movies assumed that there was more than a little hyperbole and cinematic license in them. John Finn was also, at times, caught up with his celebrity. But here was a man whose real-life exploits rendered the movies limp, and ineffectual in contrast.

Not long ago, he was asked what he was doing at the precise moment when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

"Truth be told, my boy" John said, "I was in bed with a good-looking gal." He was then asked if he ever saw her again.

"See her again?" said John. "She was my wife for sixty years!" Then he slapped his knee and bellowed with laughter.

May John have fair winds, and following seas on his final cruise.

David Klinger

[This newsprint photo of John was taken in Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 2008]

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Men of Series 681

Official photo of SM-1 Douglas Munro, USCG

I have been trying to identify the men of series 681 MPC for several years.

I am "almost sure" that this is Signalman First Class (SM1) Douglas Munro, USCG on the face of the series 681 $5. He is the only Coast Guard member ever to receive the Navy Medal of Honor.