Pictured: Hugh McPhail, Carol McPhail and John William Finn
Hugh McPhail graduated from high school in May 1950, and the next month the Korean War broke out. McPhail had enlisted in the National Guard a few years prior - an uncle gave consent.
So, McPhail served with the Army from 1950-1952. By 20, he was a Special Forces Group tank commander in Korea, he said. He is a graduate of the Command General Staff Officers School at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and of OCS in California. He then went on to more officer training at Ft. Knox, Ky. He is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves.
After his military service, McPhail worked as a master electrician for 45 years. He and his wife, Carol, moved to California, where they befriended John William Finn, a Navy veteran who McPhail heard had received the first Medal of Honor of World War II.
McPhail wasn't sure, so sought corroboration, eventually sending a letter to Sen. Diane Feinstein, who confirmed Finn's service. Finn received the Medal of Honor for distinguished service above and beyond the call of duty on Dec. 7, 1941 at Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station. The bay was attacked minutes before Pearl Harbor.
McPhail said the friendship grew. McPhail's family spent hours at the Finn cabin and even attended his 100th birthday celebration in July 2009. Finn died in May 2010.