Retired Navy Lt. John Finn, 100, the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, died Thursday at a nursing home for veterans in Southern California.

Lt. Finn was the first man to receive the nation's highest military award for heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was the oldest of 97 Medal of Honor recipients still living.

Despite head wounds and other injuries, Lt. Finn, the chief of ordnance for an air squadron, continuously fired a .50-caliber machine gun from an exposed position as bullets and bombs pounded the base at Kaneohe Bay in Oahu. He then supervised the rearming of returning American planes.

"Here they're paying you for doing your duty, and that's what I did," Lt. Finn said before his 100th birthday. "I never intended to be a hero. But on Dec. 7, by God, we're in a war."

Lt. Finn retired from the Navy in 1956 but continued to help young sailors, Lt. Aaron Kakiel said.

"He's been a real inspiration to a number of our aviation ordnance men and an example for the entire Navy," he said.

- AP