Korean War Veteran; Lawrence’s Tom Finn ~ HEROES IN MIDST, VALLEY PATRIOT OF THE MONTH


By: John  Cuddy – 3/24

“Breakfast is the best meal of the day.”

Tom Finn’s family has been hearing this for decades. They assumed it was an ode to health experts or to picking up the tab for the least expensive meal. But, no, it is a nod to the U.S. Army. Though the food Tom was served at basic training in Fort Dix was nothing to write home about, he and his fellow soldiers were well fed on the front lines in Korea.

He still appreciates the eggs, breakfast meats, and pancakes that the Army provided to the men fighting a critical mission to contain communism in the Korean Peninsula. This was one benefit – one mark of respect – given to troops that were giving up so much.

The Korean War began with a surprise attack June 25, 1950, when the North Korean People’s Army invaded the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Concerned that the Soviet Union and Communist China encouraged this attack, President Harry S. Truman committed United States air, ground, and naval forces to the combined United Nations forces assisting the Republic of Korea in its defense.

John Thomas Finn, Jr., known as Tom, was drafted right after completing a two-year automotive program at Franklin Technical Institute. He was assigned to the 45th Infantry Division and shipped from Seattle, Washington, to Korea. His official job was taking care of vehicles in the motor pool which put his skills from Franklin to good use. He also had night guard duty and saw fighting on Pork Chop Hill and Heartbreak Ridge among other places.

Tom didn’t know anyone else from the Merrimack Valley at either basic training or Korea but made friends through sports. At Johnson High, now known as North Andover High School, Tom excelled in varsity basketball, baseball, and football. In fact, Tom was inducted into the Johnson-North Andover High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002. He played a lot of basketball in his free time in Korea.

He also had the opportunity to go to Tokyo twice, including one Thanksgiving. There, the American soldiers were served traditional turkey dinners and encouraged to rest up before returning shortly to their base.

Tom stayed in Korea until the end of the war, July 1953. Officers at their base told the troops later one night that the Armistice Agreement would be announced the following morning. Tom remembers that night as a “last hurrah” for the North Koreans, throwing, shooting, and dropping everything they had at the Americans.

Returning to the States, Tom took a Pullman train across the country to Fort Meade where he was honorably discharged. He traveled home to a happy reunion with his parents, John, and Mary Finn, and two sisters, Mary, and Eleanor.

Tom joined the phone company through an on-the-job training program for veterans. He started at AT&T, working as a PBX repairman at Western Electric. During his 33 years with the phone company, he also worked as a craftsman lineman, and in numerous cities including Framingham, Boston, and Malden as well as the Merrimack Valley. He ended his career as a supervisor for New England Telephone.

Tom married Ann Hayes in 1958 and they settled in South Lawrence, raising a family that included two daughters (Patricia Driscoll and Mary Ellen Sullivan) and two sons (Tommy and Tim Finn). Education was highly valued in the family. With support from the GI Bill and the phone company, Tom attended Merrimack College nights and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1977.

Sadly, Ann passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989 at the age of 52. Tom and Ann’s legacy now includes ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all in the Merrimack Valley/southern NH area.

While Tom’s tennis-playing days at Cedardale are now fond memories, he continues his VFW membership and is an active communicant at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in North Andover. Tom will celebrate his 92nd birthday this July. Tom Finn, a member of our Silent Generation, and a Hero in Our Midst.

The Haverhill, Methuen, Andover, and Dracut American Legion Posts ask all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, to call (603) 518-5368 and sign up for an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington DC! Veterans of all eras are asked to go to the American Legion’s Web site www.legion.org, and join the American Legion, our mission is working with Congress, Veterans, and the Community, preserving our Veteran’s Benefits for future generations and serving all Veterans and their families.

John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees) after retiring from the US Navy; he earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 26 years. If you know a World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam War Veteran who would like their story told, please email him at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com. ◊