Intermission Story (9) – A Special Woman

Last December the world lost a very special person, Florence Ebersole Smith Finch, (101).

Florence Ebersole Smith Finch, USCGR 

Coast Guard SPAR decorated for combat operations during World War II

By William H. Thiesen, Ph.D.
U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian


Of the thousands of women who have served with honor in the United States Coast Guard, one stands out for her bravery and devotion to duty. Florence Smith Finch, the daughter of a U.S. Army veteran and Filipino mother, was born on the island of Luzon, north of Manila, in Santiago City. She married navy PT boat crewman Charles E. Smith while working for an army intelligence unit located in Manila. In 1942, after the Japanese invaded the Philippines, her young husband died trying to re-supply American and Filipino troops trapped by the enemy on Corregidor Island and the Bataan Peninsula.

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.

When 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, eager to continue the struggle against an enemy that had killed her husband. 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.

Ms. Finch crossed the bar on 8 December 2016.

  • Read her written answers to questions submitted to her regarding her remarkable life and career, first as a resistance fighter in the Philippines and then as a SPAR
  • Ms. Finch (c) with her extended family.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Peter Aczel – brn: HUN/ Quakertown, NY; US Army Air Corps

Alfred Biegert Jr. – San Antonio, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Photo Lab technician

Arthur Gosselin Jr. – Springfield, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Douglas Hardy – New Plymouth, NZ; RNZ Army # 64450, Sgt.

Stanley Krumholz – Far Rockaway, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, PT-190 Jack’O’Diamonds

Gerald Larson – Red Oak, AR; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Robert Murray Jr. – Pittsburgh, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Sgt., 11th Airborne Division

Donald Perdue – Vancouver, CAN; RC Army, Korea, Queen’s Own Rifles

Hank von der Heyde Jr. – Jacksonville, FL; USMC, WWII (Ret.)

Baxter Webb – Hapeville, GA; US Army, Lt., Tank Platoon/4th Division

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 24, 2017, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 146 Comments.

  1. Fascinating story of heroic woman!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An incredibly strong woman, by the sound of it, particularly to have suffered so much by the Japanese at the time and survived.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tough broad and genuine hero.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a story! I have great admiration for the Philippine people like her who, in spite of the danger they put themselves in, did all they could to help win the war.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Well Honored.
    Well deserved.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Florence is remarkable and her humble and brave heart shines through. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. X

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s never enough recognition given to the many women of WWII, who served with so much distinction whether in the services or in the factories keeping the front line troops well supplied.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Hinges of History and commented:
    What an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many have stopped in to read James Stewart and Ms. Finch’s story – two people I feel should be outstanding role models for this generation. Thank you.

      Like

  9. What an amazing woman, thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on When Women Inspire and commented:
    An inspirational woman, indeed! Thank you GP Cox for sharing this tribute to Florence Ebersole Smith Finch. Reblog!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What an amazing story- thank you for sharing! (Also, the submariner jokes are fantastic 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  12. At the end of the day… what can we do without them? And this woman is very extraordinary to say the least, thank you for sharing this piece of history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are supposed to take up the torch they leave behind – but how many actually bother to do anything? I know you served, but look around at others and what do you see?

      Like

      • What I see at age 34, or they call it the “milleniums” there in th U.S, I see a bunch of spoiled brats that go to Harvard and protest for things like equal pay, screw equal pay I’m more than glad to have a job as a freaking gardener when my so called boss calls me, so what I see is ” generation of a bunch of pussification”.
        And these idiots protes what? They are lucky to live in the U.S, your feelings got hurt? So sorry we all must cry, get a real job and tough it up. Although most probably these kids, that I don’t know why I’m suppose to be a “millenium” generations, it seems it’s up to the age of 35. So I’m me and they, or most of them, are spoiled brats that has given to them everything and then they protest against the “system”. As you can see you got me started here, I better shut up and keep on writing until my cool boss calls me to do this garden or the other. At 34 degrees celcious that we are here in Spain, tell that to those rich bastards that protest against the so called “opressive system”, I actually got to the conclusion that they really don’t study, they get bored,so why not invent something to protest? Life is not fair, deal with it. That is what I see at least through Fox news and other channels I like to see the different points of view, I do realize Fox is to the right, and the others ABC, CBS, CNN, e.t.c are to the left.
        Point being….what a comment I’m saying here, I think this is a book, the point is that this generation by enlarge is a softy one.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Ancien Hippie and commented:
    A GREAT Story!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. …and what an amazing woman. I should compile a giant, fat book of stories like this and pass it out to my friends. You could just randomly turn to a page and get your inspiration for the day. All your personal troubles and difficulties are easier when you hear of other people’s diligent work and triumphs during their lives. Their stories keep you company on your own journey…makes you stand up taller…puts a little steel in your spine…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Fantastic post. I always learn so much from you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. You are right…it is not only the people on the front line who win wars…

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Pierre Lagacé

    This would be my choice for a guest post on 19 August,1942.

    http://wp.me/p1RdXZ-JG2

    Liked by 1 person

  18. A brave woman who, for me, is crying out for a statue somewhere. Are there any bases in the Philippines which could have a statue in front of the entrance?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great story. There must have been a lot of unsung heroes in those times. I like her last comment telling the questioners that they hadn’t mentioned the WIMSA.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. A good reminder of the role that women have played, and continue to play in the Coast Guard, G. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  21. A lot of respect for this great lady who lost her husband so young in war.She did you much to help the in dangerous moments.Good they never forgot all the good things she did

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thanks so much for sharing the story of this remarkable woman.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Super story. Thanks GP

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you so much for the post! An amazing lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. What a brave woman! Another very inspiring story 🙂
    After losing her young husband and I enduring torture, I pray that she had a blessed life from that point on. She deserved it!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. An amazing and inspiring Lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Thank you for presenting the merits of this brave and interesting person to a wider audience, GP Cox. We say well done, Florence Ebersole Smith Finch and well done, GP Cox!
    Greetings from rainy Norfolk,
    The Fab Four of Cley

    Liked by 1 person

    • Klausbernd,
      I appreciate you taking the time to read about this incredible woman. We all feel it was wonderful that she should not only live a long life, but a happy one!
      May the fab Four of Cley have the best weekend ever!
      GP Cox

      Liked by 1 person

  28. For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
    I hope to see my Pilot face to face
    When I have crost the bar.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. She was an extraordinary person. Her story definitely needs to be in front of a wider audience.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Lol!! The cartoons are really good- the naval officer locked out of the submarine is hilarious! Intense submarine race….not to my naked eye haha😂 Oh and for the serious part…the woman is indeed special! Thanks for laughs and historical info😊

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Hey GP, I came across this wartime reminiscence by Freeman Dyson of his work for Bomber Command. For those who do not know who Prof. Dyson is, think of him as the Einstein of our age. The article is very readable and reveals an interesting view on strategic bombing.

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/406789/a-failure-of-intelligence/

    Liked by 1 person

  32. She lived to 101 years old?
    After the War, her remaining life was happy?(I hope ,she was Happy):D

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Quite the woman! I particularly enjoy stories about the women who served in the military. It’s often talked about as if it’s a new thing, but they’ve been finding ways to serve for a good long time. Maybe not as heroically as this woman, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Wow! Another story of an incredible woman, caught in extremely difficult circumstances not of her own making, who simply put her shoulder to the plow and carried on.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Special and incredible, GP! So glad to see that she lived a long and happy life with her family after enduring what she did.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. I really enjoy these posts. Thank you for sharing these stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. What an incredible Lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Wonderful person and her written answers are very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Thank you for sharing this story. We know so little in general about the people who served, especially the women who served and who lost so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. An amazing and honorable life! Love the cartoons today 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  41. What an incredible story GP, and what an extraordinary lady Florence Finch was. If I may, I would like to honor her with the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson;

    Sunset and evening star,
    And one clear call for me!
    And may there be no moaning of the bar,
    When I put out to sea,

    But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
    Too full for sound and foam,
    When that which drew from out the boundless deep
    Turns again home.

    Twilight and evening bell,
    And after that the dark!
    And may there be no sadness of farewell,
    When I embark;

    For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
    I hope to see my Pilot face to face
    When I have crost the bar.

    Liked by 4 people

  42. Some woman – I’m pleased she had such a long life

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Thank you for sharing the story.

    Like

  44. Thank you for sharing this story on your list.

    Like

  45. Thank you for helping me to honor this woman, Andrew.

    Like

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