Florence Finch was a Coast Guard veteran who fought against the Japanese in the Phillipine Resistance of World War II. Though she died on December 8, 2016, at the age of 101, she has only been recently memorialized in April.
After the Japanese occupied Manila, Finch avoided internment by claiming her Philippine citizenship. She received a note from her imprisoned army intelligence boss regarding shortages of food and medicine in the POW camps. Finch began assisting with locating and providing smuggled supplies to American POWs and helping provide fuel to Filipino guerrillas. In October 1944, the Japanese arrested Finch, beating, torturing and interrogating her during her initial confinement. Through it all, she never revealed information regarding her underground operations or fellow resisters.
American forces liberated her prison camp in February 1945, Finch weighed only eighty pounds. She boarded a Coast Guard-manned transport returning to the United States and moved to her late father's hometown of Buffalo, New York. In July 1945, she enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Women's Reserve, or the SPARs, to avenge her husband who had been killed in the war. Finch served through the end of the war and was among the first Pacific-Island American women to don a Coast Guard uniform.
After the war, she met U.S. Army veteran Robert Finch. They married and moved to Ithaca, New York, where she lived the remainder of her life. Of the thousands of SPARs serving in World War II, she was the first to be honored with the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon. In November 1947, she received the U.S. Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian medal awarded to Americans who aided in the war effort. In 1995, the Coast Guard honored her service by naming a facility for her at Coast Guard Base Honolulu.
Despite her heroics, Finch has said, "I feel very humble...because my activities in the war effort were trivial compared with those of the people who gave their lives for their country.'
She was buried with full military honors on Saturday at Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Cayuga Heights, N.Y.