This is a guest post written by Baird (Barry) Otis Barr-Finch. His father’s story was originally posted on AWON’s website and is reprinted here with his permission.
My Dad, David Baird Finch was born in Atkinson, Illinois, on June 5, 1912 to James Madison Finch and Kate Nichol Finch. His father was a Congregational Minister, farmer and sometimes county Judge, so that the family moved around a lot, mostly in Nebraska. Dad completed his high school years at Bellwood Nebraska, where he played basketball. He attended one year of high school at Caldwell, Idaho, where his parents retired. He attended Wayne College in Nebraska for a while. He was the youngest of eight children and spoiled by all with a lot of attention and affection. His two oldest brothers served in the Army during World War I. The oldest, Robert was killed in France in the Battle of Belleau Wood 6/6/18. He is buried at the American Cemetery, and the other brother, Durell, received permanent injuries from gas.
Dad was considered to be very charming and a strong bond existed with all the family. It is quite apparent from the letters they wrote about him and the few stories that have been told about him, that he was the kind of man they all admired greatly.
He played semi-pro baseball in the Midwest during the 1930’s and since work was hard to get, he worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps. He also worked with a surveying crew and the Bureau of Reclamations at Caldwell, Idaho.
In 1937, he joined the Idaho National Guard 116th Calvary Unit where is was a Sargent. When the war began, Being older and unmarried, the military had a huge need for officers. He was asked to resign from the National Guard and joined the regular Army. He attended the Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia. After graduating in 1942, he went to training camps at different locations around the country, one of which was Fort Lewis, Washington. His outfit served in the Aleutian Campaign after getting his commission.
While at Fort Lewis, he met my mother, Zelpha Galloway Hawkins, who was living in Seattle with her five-year-old son, Ed. As Dad said in a letter to his sisters, they “fell for each other pretty hard.” They were married in the Chapel at Fort Lawton, Seattle. Much of their remaining days together were carried on through the mail, and while some of those letters survived, most of them “disappeared.” Of course much of their correspondence was about me and my brother. Before I was born, all they could talk about was how excited they were about having a little “girl.” They didn’t even have a boy’s name picked out so they had to scramble to find one. Dad did get to be at the hospital at the time of my birth on March 27, 1944, but he was not allowed to hold me, even after he tried to bribe one of the nurses. He did write to his sister about how “proud” he was of his family.
Soon thereafter, he was sent to the Pacific where the invasion of the Philippines was being planned. After the initial landing on Leyete, Philippine Islands, on October 20, 1944, as part of General MacArthur’s invasion. On November 13, 1944 he was sent on a mission in the foot hills west of Guinarona to determine the location and strength of enemy positions. The patrol had to cover ground thick with tall grass and bamboo thickets. Approaching a high ridge, they were suddenly hit by deadly machine gun and mortar fire at close range. The enemy was strongly entrenched and well concealed by the thick brush. Realizing that he was greatly out numbered and his position extremely perilous, he started withdrawing his men to safety. To do this, he had to expose himself to enemy fire. Hit by sniper fire, he died almost instantly. The men he had so bravely given his life for brought him back to the American lines. His captain wrote that “David had won the admiration of officers and the respect and affection of his men by his sincerity, his courage, and cheerfulness.” Another comrade wrote that “his loss to the Co. was a great blow, as the men liked and admired him so much. He was well liked and thought of by his fellow officers too.” He was buried in a temporary grave on Leyete. Later his remains were taken to a central cemetery on Leyte and in 1947 his remains were taken to Manila where the decision was made to put his remains in the Manila American Cemetery there along with 17,200+ men.
My mother remarried in 1946 to another “Vet.” While I bonded with him as my “Dad”, and he adopted my brother and myself, I was allowed the freedom to get to know the memory of my fallen father. My step-father once told me many years later that my Father was the one true love of my mother’s life. I had a good relationship with most of my fathers siblings, who lived nearby. It took taken 55 years to come to a point of healing that I have today and realize how much I missed knowing a great man. I can now be so thankful for his life and all the blessings I have received because of him. He is my hero.
This is a short story of my father, who died in WWII. I am the author and sole owner of this narrative. I want to share his story so that his sacrifice will not be forgotten. This story appears on the AWON (American World War II Orphans Network) Father’s page. AWON is dedicated to preserving the memory of our fallen hero fathers. The sources of this story come from oral stories told by family members, from letters written by family members, military comrades, and from Military records.
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© 2017 Baird (Barry) Otis Barr-Finch & World War II Research and Writing Center
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