Ted Finch — a lifetime of service

Published 11:18 pm Saturday, February 9, 2008

Carriere resident Ted Finch served our country with a military career that spanned across four decades and three wars.

Born and raised on a farm in Scott County Virginia, Finch was tired of farm life and the lack of hope of making a living at it. During World War II, like so many others in a time when a strong feeling of patriotism was sweeping the nation, Finch lied about his age and enlisted in the Army in 1946. He was just 16.

Finch attended basic training at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, and finished as a top recruit. “I did very well,” said Finch, “I was a squad leader.”

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After basic training, welding school, knot and rope tying school and ship to shore training, Finch found himself stationed in the Philippians. He was an MP for the night detachment, second signal battalion. “I was basically a glorified guard,” said Finch.

“One night while I was sitting watch in the guard shack, I saw an old man coming towards me with his arms raised high in the air,” Finch recalled. “The man was approaching and was talking in Japanese, so I quickly radioed my commander. As help arrived with guns drawn, we figured out that the man was a Japanese major coming out to surrender. Obviously no one had informed the man the war was over,” said Finch shaking his head. Finch is sure the man was later tried and convicted of war crimes.

After spending time as an MP, since no promotions were available to him as a guard, Finch decided to become a cook in the mess hall. Four months after taking the position, he made sergeant.

When his tour ended in March of ’48, Finch was discharged. He re-enlisted in September of that same year. At 18, he was now well over the legal age to serve, which at the time was 17 for men.

He was then assigned to Fort Eustice in Virginia. There he served in the 17th airborne division until he went to Japan in ’49.

It was during Finch’s tour in Japan, and the spring of 1950 when the Korean War broke out. Finch was in Mt. Fuji, and serving as first cook when he received his orders to be shipped out, destination unknown.

No longer needing cooks, the men would be on sea rations for a while, Finch was trained in three shots for his new job as a as a tank gunner in the fourth platoon. “Three shots and that’s all,” Finch said. Shortly afterwards, everything got loaded onto the ships, including the 27 tanks, and the men were bound for Pusan, Korea.

During his stint in Korea, Finch saw quite a few battles. He also made a friend, another mess hall cook named Smokey Burgess from Georgia. Finch recalled fondly his time spent with Smokey in the foxhole.

While headed to North Korea, the men found themselves cut off in a valley and they started drawing enemy fire. “There were bullets flying everywhere,” said Finch. He laughed, “Smokey was in the foxhole about as far down as he could get, while I was above firing away.”

He also laughed about discovering Smokey hiding in the back of a mess hall truck when they were forced to retreat south. “Smokey had crawled up into the truck and climbed onto the cooking racks,” Finch said. Smokey was apparently afraid of having his head removed while crawling on his belly beside the tanks like Finch and a number of the other men were having to do during the retreat.

Finch spent Thanksgiving and Christmas that year in Korea. He managed to put smiles on a lot of GI’s faces making turkeys for the men to enjoy while the temperatures plummeted to 20 below.

After his tour in Korea, Finch was sent on leave back in the states. He went from Kentucky to Georgia, and then received his orders for France where he became first cook for the 83rd engineer battalion.

In France, Finch redesigned a deplorable mess hall, and received the award for best mess two years running when he was reassigned to the Headquarters Company. It was there he got promoted to sergeant first class.

Finch spent plenty more time in the service going from France to New Orleans, back to Korea, back to New Orleans, Virginia, Germany, Kentucky and back to Germany.

His second trip to Germany, Finch was assigned to the Persian Missile Unit where he was required to go to mountains with atomic warheads and spend a period of thirty days at a time. “When the whistle blew you had to be ready to go in a matter of minutes. I had to have secret clearance for the position,” said Finch. He spent approximately a year and a half with this assignment.

Finch also did a stint in Vietnam, in the 159th aviation battalion, in a consolidated mess hall, feeding 2,000 troops per meal.

Finch retired from the military in ’72 while he was stationed in Fort Polk, Louisiana, but not before earning a long list of awards and decorations including the WWII Victory Medal, a Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal (eight times), the Korean Campaign Medal with five battle stars, the Vietnam Campaign Medal with two battle stars, National defense – two awards, the United Nations Medal, the 50 Years Freedom Medal (Korea), the Presidential Unit Citation (America, Korea, and Vietnam) and the Japanese Occupation Medal.

Finch also managed a social life during all of his travels with the service. It was in Fort Knox, Kentucky that me met and married his first wife, and had three children. They were married for ten years.

In December of ’62, he married Holly Finch, while stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. Holly is Finch’s current wife and between the two of them they have six children. Finch adopted Holly’s two daughters, and they have a son together. Holly spent time traveling with Finch during some of his tours of duty and did civil service work. Their son, John G. Finch is now a Master Sergeant.

Holly and Ted moved to Hide-A-Way Lake 14 years ago, after purchasing a lot in the subdivision on the water. “Now he can fish without someone saying he can’t,” said Holly – a main motivation for the couple moving here from New Orleans.

After honorably serving his country, and as a testimony to living in Pearl River County, both Finch and Holly agree that they could not have found a better place to call home.