Ambrose J. Finnegan, Jr. was born August 8, 1914 to parents Mr. Ambrose J. Finnegan and Mrs. Geraldine (née Blewitt) Finnegan. The Finnegan family lived at 2446 North Washington Avenue in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Their children included Gerard Joseph Finnegan (born 1910), Edward Blewitt Finnegan (born 1912), Ambrose J. Finnegan, Jr. (born 1914), Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan (born 1917) and John A. Finnegan (born 1920). The family lived at 2446 North Washington Avenue in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He graduated high school then worked as a salesman employed by J. L. Marshall and was single. On October 16, 1940 at age 26 he registered with the draft board in Scranton.
On January 19, 1942 Ambrose J. Finnegan, Jr. age 27 and his younger brother John A. Finnegan age 21 plus a neighborhood friend enlisted together in the U.S. Army. On January 21, 1942 he was induction at Wilkes Barre, PA with the rank of private with serial number 13055654 and underwent training at Kessler Field, Mississippi. By late October 1942 he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Later, commissioned as an officer with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and serial number O-2036172 then sent overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA). Finnegan was assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF) to Headquarters Squadron as a courier for Headquarters, Advanced Echelon (ADVON) in New Guinea.
On May 14, 1944 at 5:05pm took off as a passenger aboard A-20G Havoc 42-86768 on a flight from Momote Airfield on Los Negros Island piloted by 1st Lt. Harold R. Prince on an administrative flight bound for Nadzab Airfield. The crew included gunner TSgt Ashford H. Cardwell, engineer TSgt Anthony Zulkus and passenger 2nd Lt. Ambrose J. Finnegan, Jr. aboard as a courier. The weather was reported as good on the flight route. Before reaching the north coast of New Guinea, this A-20 attempted to ditch in the sea but both engines failed roughly 30' altitude and nosed over impacting hard. After the crash, Prince, Cardwell and Finnegan never surfaced and went down with the aircraft. When this aircraft failed to arrive it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Only Zulkus survived the crash and was later rescued by a barge. Afterwards, the search for this aircraft was led by Major Kenneth E. Rosebush. On May 15, 1944 a pair of A-20s piloted by Captain Dean and Major Kenneth E. Rosebush took off on a search mission but failed to locate any trace of the plane or missing crew members.
The three missing crew: Prince, Cardwell and Finnegan were officially declared dead the day of the mission. All three are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. Since the flight was deemed to be a non-combat flight, none of the crew earned the Purple Heart, posthumously.
On July 21, 1944 at the University of Scranton a Catholic memorial mass was conducted by the student counselor. He is also memorialized on his family grave at Saint Catherine's Cemetery in Moscow, PA in section S-4. The epitaph reads: "Lt. Ambrose J. Jr. USAF 1914–1944 Lost in S. W. Pacific Area." Today, Finnegan remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Ambrose J. Finnegan (father Finnegan died May 27, 1957 at age 73)
Geraldine Blewitt Finnegan (mother died June 24, 1949 at age 63)
John A. Finnegan (brother Finnegan died March 31, 1973)
Joseph R. Biden Jr. (nephew of Finnegan)
Pacific Wrecks - A-20G Havoc 42-86768
NARA WWII Draft Registration Cards - Ambrose J. Finnegan, Jr., October 16, 1940
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Ambrose J. Finnegan, Jr.
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) - Ambrose J. Finnegan, Jr.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Ambrose J. Finnegan Jr.
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency WWII Report for Pennsylvania (Unaccounted For) - Finnegan, Ambrose J. "not recoverable" [PDF]
2Lt Ambrose Joseph Finnegan, Jr (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Ambrose J Finnegan, Jr (memorial marker photo)
The Tribune "Pals 17 Years, Three Hope to Fly Together" January 20, 1942 page 3
"Three neighborhood pals, two of them brothers, signed up for service in the Army Air Corps yesterday and tomorrow will leave for Wilkes-Barre for formal induction. Later, they will be sent to Kessler Field, Miss.
The brothers are Ambrose Finnegan Jr., 27, and John Finnegan, 21, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose Finnegan, 2446 North Washington Avenue."
The Tribune "2 Local Brothers With MacArthur's Air Force" October 21, 1942 page 3
"Two Scranton boys have gone into action with General Douglas MacArthur's Air Forces for the relief of Guadalcanal.
The Tribune "6 Regional Soldiers Reported Casualties" May 24, 1944
"Lt. Ambrose J, Finnegan Jr. Listed Missing Between Admiralty Islands and New Guinea. Six more regional servicemen have been reported as casualties in the present world conflict according to information received by their families from the War Department. The casualties follow: Lt. Ambrose J. Finnegan Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose J. Finnegan, reported by the adjutant general's department last night as missing in action since May 14, last, in the Pacific area."
The Tribune "4 Regional Men Dead; 5 Wounded, 5 Missing" June 26, 1944 page 3
"Learn Lt. Finnegan Lost Life While on Duty in Pacific Area... Lt. Ambrose J. Finnegan Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose J. Finnegan, reported missing in action since May 14 in the Pacific area is officially reported dead, according to a telegram received by his parents yesterday from the War Department."
The Tribune "Gen. MacArthur Sends Sympathy to Father Of Late Lt. Finnegan" July 11, 1944 page 3
"Evidence that the supreme sacrifice paid by by Second Lt. Ambrose J. Finnegan Jr. did not go unnoticed was given in a recent letter received by the Lieutenant's father, Ambrose J. Finnegan Sr., 2446 North Washington Ave. Lieutenant Finnegan was killed in the South Pacific area recently.
The letter, written by Gen. Douglas MacArthur from General Headquarters in the Southwest Pacific Area, follows:
'Dear Mr. Finnegan: In th death of your son, Second Lieutenant ambrose J. Finnegan Jr., while in service of his country, you have my profound sympathy. Your consolation may be that he died in the uniform of our beloved country, serving in a crusade from which a better world for all will come. Very faithfully, Douglas MacArthur."
The Tribune "Hold Memorial Mass Today for Lt. Finnegan" July 21, 1944 page 9
"A memorial mass in the form of a dialogue mass will be celebrated this morning at the University of Scranton by the student counselor for the repose of the soul of 2nd Lt. Ambrose J. Finnegan Jr., a graduate of St. Thomas High School, class of 1933. Th entire student body will be present and will assist at the dialogue mass."
Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics by Joe Biden (2008) page 21
"The day after Pearl Harbor my mom's four brothers went down to sign up for war service. Three of them got in. My uncle Ambrose Jr. was a flier killed in New Guinea. Jack and Gerry did their part."
The White House Office of the Vice President "Remarks by the Vice President at a World War II Flag Commemoration Ceremony" July 17, 2016 Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden Melbourne Cricket Grounds, Melbourne, Australia
"I wish my mother, Jean Finnegan Biden, from Scranton, Pennsylvania was able to be with me today because when the President and his contingent landed in Papua New Guinea, that's where my two uncles -- two of her brothers ended up, in Army Air Corps, the United States Army. One brother, Ambrose Finnegan, was lost in Papua New Guinea. They never found the body. And the other came home with malaria and was sick off and on for the better part of his life.
But I remember as a kid I used to sit up in the attic where my grandpop had my uncles’ medals. And I used to sneak out of the house with this Army Air Corps patch in my pocket to demonstrate to everybody in the neighborhood I grew up in -- an old Irish-Catholic neighborhood where on Pearl Harbor Day, literally the next day, everyone in the neighborhood -- all five of my mother’s brothers -- went down and joined that day, joined the fight.
And my Uncle Jack Finnegan, who was a registrar at the University of Scranton, talked about the Aussies all the time and how he was proud -- he was proud to serve. And hearing my mother talk about it for so long, I wish she were here to meet you, Mr. President. And it’s a great honor to be here today."
National Constitution Center - Liberty Medal 2017: Remarks from John McCain and Joe Biden
Joe Biden: "Her number two brother is Ambrose Finnegan who still is remembered in Scranton as a leader. He was shot down and his body was never found in Papua New Guinea. And she used to talk about every time something came up about John how he reminded her of her brother Ambrose."
PNG Attitude "Joe Biden’s deep connection with PNG" November 9, 2020 by Keith Jackson
"Australia looked to America, and a generation of Americans - including two of my uncles - responded,” Biden said during a visit to Australia as US vice president in 2016... “Papua New Guinea, that's where my two uncles, ended up, in the Army Air Corps of the United States Army,” Biden said."