CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
Alexander “Alec” Finch was born in New York City in April 1923. By America’s entry into World War II in December 1941, he had graduated from high school and was working in New York for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as a clerk. Many of his friends and people from his neighborhood enlisted or were drafted into the military, causing Finch to think he might enlist as well.
Finch knew some officers stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, who promised him that if he enlisted there he would do his basic training locally. He took the officers up on their offer and enlisted at Fort Monmouth. Finch did his basic training at Sea Girt, New Jersey, in the former state National Guard Camp, which, following the call-up of the Guard, had been leased by the Army Signal Corps for training purposes.
While training at Sea Girt, Finch got an occasional one-day pass, and he usually went to Newark or New York City to enjoy his free time. After completing basic training, he was assigned to the Keystone Radio School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for further instruction. On graduating from radio school, Finch learned that he was going to be assigned to the Pacific Theatre, specifically New Guinea. He traveled to Drew Field, Florida and then by train to Camp Stoneman, California, a port of embarkation for the Pacific.
On arrival in New Guinea after three weeks on a troopship, Finch, who was assigned to the 574th Signal Battalion, quickly discovered that the island was underdeveloped, and that the closest aspects of modern civilization were the small English-speaking villages dotting the coastline. He was stationed at an army base near Port Moresby, the largest town in New Guinea. Finch recalled that the two-season weather on the island was terrible, consisting of daily downpours during the wet season and extremely hot weather during the dry season.
There was still an enemy military presence in New Guinea, and the area around Port Moresby was subjected to occasional Japanese strafing. Finch adapted to his new life; he recalled that the training he received had prepared him well for his wartime experiences. His instructors didn’t “go by the book alone,” and they trained him to deal flexibly with any possibility he might have to face. In addition to his radio duties, Finch drove supply trucks from the beach to his base, located in a coconut plantation.
While in New Guinea, Finch worked with Australians and New Zealanders as well as Americans. He was with the Aussies a lot and enjoyed their company. Even with the possibility of contracting diseases from the surrounding jungles, Finch had no health issues, and medical care was immediately available at a nearby army hospital. For entertainment, the soldiers were able to watch movies on the base; and, an occasional USO entertainer would fly in for a live show. Since Finch was in the Signal Corps, he was always on call for communications duty, which gave him no time to have a Rest and Recuperation (R&R) leave. His unit would move every three to four months; and, he was often required to perform tasks outside of his basic duties as well, including courier services to Leyte in the Philippines.
Finch learned he was going home in September 1945, while he and his unit were serving in the Philippines. After landing in California and processing through Camp Stoneman again, he took a train to the East coast and Fort Monmouth for discharge. Finch received the Asiatic Pacific Theater, New Guinea Liberation, Philippines Liberation, American Theatre, World War II Victory and Good Conduct medals for his service.
After the war, Finch attended and graduated from Rutgers University, and he returned to New York City to work for thirty-five years at Travelers Insurance Company. He remained in touch with the friends he had made while stationed in New Guinea. Finch even traveled to Australia and New Zealand to reconnect with a wartime friend who had been a sergeant in the Australian Army. He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Navesink Country Club, the Red Bank Historical Society and the Pine Creek Railroad.
Alexander J. Finch passed away in West Long Branch, New Jersey on June 10, 2011.