It’s not often in a life time that you encounter a true hero, but I’ve had that privilege in the
person of John W. Finn. John is the oldest (100) living Medal of Honor recipient from
World War II and Pearl Harbor. He was born on July 24, 1909 in Los Angeles and I’ve
known him for about 33 years, and he just happens to be my next door neighbor in the
rural mountain community of Boulevard located in east San Diego County. Although
slowed down by age, John is still sharp and full of great stories to this day. I am truly
honored to know him.
For extraordinary heroism, distinguished service and devotion above and beyond the
call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station,
Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, LT Finn promptly secured and manned a .50
caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of
the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire. Although
painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy’s
fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks
and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders
that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid
treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he
returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes.
His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest
traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
The Citation didn’t mention a few details of what happened. It didn’t mention that LT Finn
held his position for two hours and he didn’t stop firing until all the enemy planes had
gone. Finn had been hit by shrapnel in twenty-one places; several were serious wounds.
His left arm was numb and a bullet had passed through one foot.
Nine months later, Finn was awaiting sea duty when he was informed that he was to
receive the Medal of Honor. It was presented to him on Sept. 14, 1942, on board the
USS Enterprise in Pearl Harbor by Admiral Chester Nimitz. The USS Enterprise was sunk
two weeks later in the battle of Midway. The current Enterprise is still on active duty.
I recently got a call from a rider (Marty C.) who wanted us to install a shock spring on his
2009 KLR650 when he rode through our area. I may have spoken a little too soon
when I said, sure we can arrange that. He then added that he was also hauling a
sidecar. Well, we’ve never dealt with a sidecar on any motorcycle let alone a KLR,
so I kinda backpeddled. It was finally decided that he would meet me and pick-up a spring
that he would install later.
When we met I spent a lot of time walking around his bike inspecting every detail on
how he mounted the sidecar and was quite impressed with the very sanitary installation.
This was his sixth or seventh sidecar but was the first on a KLR. It had a fiberglass bucket
to keep weight down, two sidecar shocks among the various struts and braces and the
most interesting thing was the explanation on how you get the proper wheel tracking. After
a few photos I bid him safe travel to San Felipe for a sidecar rally.
Following is a portion of his trip.
I rode our ’09 KLR sidecar from Alameda, CA to our meeting where you dropped off the 8.0
kg spring for our rear shock. I rode out to El Centro Kawasaki; they graciously agreed to
help with the spring exchange. The folks next door at Smart & Final allowed me to use the
corner patch of grass and shade tree for a work place; after 35 years as a certified
mechanic, I now have the honorary title of “shade tree mechanic”.
The Kawasaki Dealer loaned me a floor jack and I later purchased a small sissor jack from
Autozone and could have done the removal and replacement just about anywhere.
Because the sidecar subframe bolted under the KLR, I had to remove the fuel tank, seat,
Happy Trails panniers and all the plastic shrouds and side covers. With all the parts in
a circle, it looked as if the wagons were circling pending an attack. It took an hour to
separate the rear subframe and pull the shock out through the top. The dealer
changed out the spring and it took me several hours to get it all back together.
While it was apart I took the liberty to check for loose nuts and bolts. I found many, so it
was good I had it apart.
I made a quick adjustment to all the shocks, with the rear gray Top Gun 8.0kg set to
maximum (preload). I adjusted the rebound, dialed in a few more notches on the sidecar
and away I went. Due to the extra stiff rear KLR shock spring, we dialed out 80% of the
side to side roll. I later maxed out the sidecar shock and I now have a flat sports-car ride in
the corners, we were easily able to double our cornering speeds safely.
I’m glad Marty was able to get the installation done and is happy with the results after all
that work. The time and knowledge it took to properly attach the sidecar still impresses
me. I think Marty must have an engineer’s mind and boy am I thankful not to have
tackled this job.