Florence Ebersole Finch (October 11, 1915 – December 8, 2016) was a Filipino-American member of the World War II resistance against the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
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.
Finch was born Loring May Ebersole October 11, 1915, in Santiago, the Philippines. Her father was American and her mother was Filipino.
Prior to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, Finch was working at the G-2 (Intelligence) Headquarters of the U. S. Army in Manila. There she met her husband, an American soldier named Charles Smith, who would be killed in action in the Philippines in 1942.
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.
She remained in captivity until February 10, 1945, when, weighing just 80 pounds, she was rescued by the American troops liberating the Philippines.
Following the war, she moved to Buffalo, New York, where she joined the U.S. Coast Guard. 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.
She died December 8, 2016, in Ithaca, New York. Finch was given a military funeral with full honors in April 2017.
Finch was awarded the American Medal of Freedom in 1947. She was also awarded the Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Ribbon, the first woman to be so decorated.