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(This item about Finley Howard Ganoe copied with appreciation from Gary Fields at in 2007, and originally written over 10 years before that. If anyone has additional images or information to provide regarding Mr. Ganoe, please contact Patrick...[Finley Howard Ganoe]

Finley Howard Ganoe

(This item about Finley Howard Ganoe copied with appreciation from Gary Fields at in 2007, and originally written over 10 years before that. If anyone has additional images or information to provide regarding Mr. Ganoe, please contact Patrick Lucas at


Finley Howard Ganoe

March 8th, 1924 ~ January 12th, 1943


"The Department of War told me that one person in the crash
wanted to go up in the plane simply because he had never flew
on one of those planes. I will always believe that that was
my Finley." -Nora Jackson Ganoe

Finley Howard Ganoe never did like school. Many a day would find Finley coming home from playing hookey only to find his father, Grover Gaston Ganoe, waiting on him with a hickory switch. While the switch would serve it's purpose, it never would have a lasting effect. Seems Finley dreaded school more than he dreaded his father's switches. It was this huge hate for school that in a small, but yet very large way, would lead to the end of Finley Howard Ganoe's life.

When Finley finished his 10th grade year of school, he just could not go back. He disliked it too much. So he went to do something a little more adventerous, something with a little more spice than school. He went to join the Army. Little did he know, a person could not join the armed services until they reached the age of eighteen. Finley was only seventeen. Finley would not give up though. He insisted on getting into the Army. "The only way you can get in at your age" said the recruiter, "is if your Mother or Father signs for you."

The fall of 1941 came and Finley did not go to school. His parents knew it was hopeless. In those days, it was fairly common for a large majority of people in this area to not finish school. In fact, of the fifteen children that Grover and Nora would have, only one would eventually end up graduating from high school. That fall, Finley did a lot of what he loved to do. He hunted grouse. Early one September morning, Finley took his double barrel 20 guage and headed for the woods. This particular morning, he decided to go up to a place that is now referred to as Park Hill in Rich Creek, Virginia, the upper section where the airport used to be. To get to where he wanted to go, Finley had to climb across a fence and then a field belonging to old man Buckland. It was very foggy that morning. As Finley crossed the fence, he heard a noise. It was getting louder. He had just put his second foot on the ground when busting out of the fog bank was a charging bull! And not just any bull; it was old man Buckland's prize bull. Finley didn't have time to think, he just reacted. He put his 20 gauge up and fired. Before the smoke cleared, he fired the second barrel. The bull crashed to the ground only feet in front of him, two holes in it's head. He never breathed a word of the incident for a long time. Even when a week later, he ran into old man Buckland and had to listen to him complain about how "...some sorry *@%#^& killed my prize bull!"

Finley was also a sleepwalker. One night when he was young, Finley took off on one of his "trips." His older brother Garfield had heard the door and looked out their upstairs window to see Finley heading down the road. Garfield just thought he was going out for some reason. He left their house which was located behind Johnny McGloughlin's Drug Store (which is now the NAPA store). He was heading up the hill toward what is now Carden's Motel when a tractor trailor, after seeing this strange looking young man with only one shoe on, blew his horn at him. This woke Finley up and he went back to the house, feeling fortunate not to have been run over.

Finley would not let his Mother rest. Finally, she gave in. She agreed to sign and let Finley join the Army. He would be the very first citizen of Giles County, Virginia to volunteer for the service during the second world war. He entered the Army on the 3rd day of January, 1942. He trained at Jackson, Mississippi and was assigned to the 10th Army Air Force. He went overseas in June of 1942.

Lois would miss him very much. She would wait for the day he returned. Lois Motteshread was Finley's girlfriend. They were very close. They spent as much time together as they possibly could. When Finley left to go overseas, he gave Lois his watch to keep and to remember him by until he got back.

Finley came in on leave to visit his family before he left to go overseas. He later wrote to his mother when he finally reached his station overseas that, "..... when that train passed through Rich Creek, I wanted to jump off so bad." Could it have been a premonition? A message of some sort..... that was ignored? Finley stayed on the train and headed to the airport for the trip to New Delhi, India.

As a member of the 10th Army Air Force, Finley's job was an airplane mechanic, or crew chief as they were called. They serviced the planes, tested them, then they were loaded with supplies and flew to China. On January 12th, 1942, Finley and his crew had just finished servicing 3 planes. They were preparing to test fly them before being loaded with supplies for their flight to China. It was at this time, Nora insists, that Finley sealed his fate. Being the adventurer he was, he decided to go up in one of the planes...... just for the fun of it. He had worked on them, but had never flew in one. The only times he had flown was to go to his new station overseas. So, in he climbed. The flight was perfect. All three planes reported no problems, so they prepared for landing. As they were lining up to land, something went terribly wrong. One of the planes made a terrible mistake. They came too close, and the two planes collided. There was no hope for either plane... it was a terrible crash. There were no survivors from either plane. So horrendous was the crash that of the thirteen men that were on the two planes, only enough body "parts" were collected to put into nine coffins.

It was a cold day on January 22nd. Not a day unlike any other, just a normal, cold winter day. Pauline was brushing Betty's hair as she stood upon a stool in front of a mirror. (Pauline and Betty were Finley's sisters.) Betty was just five years old at the time. Pauline was fourteen. As she was having her hair brushed, Betty noticed through the mirror that Mr. W.R. Bonham was walking into his house on the other side of the road. Pauline thought this was odd. It was lunch time, but Mrs. Bonham always delivered Mr. Bonham his lunch to his place of work at the telegraph station. In a very short time, Mr. & Mrs Bonham came back out and started walking to the Ganoe's house. When he knocked on the door, Nora told them to come in so she could shut the door and keep the heat in the house. She invited them to sit down. Pauline noticed the small piece of paper he had in his nervous hand. Grover came in the room also. Nora asked him what brought him to the house this time of day. Mr. Bonham said, "Mrs. Ganoe, I have some bad news for you." Immediately, Nora started to get choked up. Mr. Bonham, probably for lack of words, just read the telegraph; "The Secretary of war desires me to express to you that your son, Corprol Finley H. Ganoe, was killed January 12th in Asiatic area in airplane accident. Letter follows." Nora started sobbing. Then sobbed uncontrollably. Finley's father, Grover, kept saying in between wimpers, " can't be, it just can't be him. He's not dead!"

Telegram describing loss of Cpl. Ganoe.

This is the actual Western Union Telegram delivered to Finley's Mother Nora on January 22nd, 1943. It reads:

Mrs. Nora J. Ganoe Box 61-
Rich Creek, Va

The Secretary of war desires
me to express his deepest
regrets that your son
Corpral Finley H. Ganoe was
killed January 12 in Asiatic
aria in airplane accident. Letter
follows- utio the adjutant

The last few words, "utio the adjutant" are not very clear. The handwriting is not very readable. The word "aria" is also assumed to be misspelled.



The letter to the right is a copy of the next correspondence received by the Ganoes. It is dated January 15th, three days after Finley was killed. It reads as follows:

Dear Mrs. Ganoe

Information has been recieved and forwarded to the War Department that your son, Corporal Finley H. Ganoe, gave his life for his country in India on January 12, 1943. Official notification will previously have reached you through the War Department.

I wish to add my expression of sincere sympathy to those you have already recieved. It may be some consolation and comfort for you to know that your son performed his duties in the Tenth Air Force in a manner that reflected credit on him and on the United States. Your loss is also the nation's loss. Your son's ability, loyalty and companionship will be missed by his many friends and comrades in arms in the Tenth Air Force.


Clayton Bissell,
Brig. Gen., U.S.A.

The Ganoe's of course were curious as to the details of their son's death. They also wanted to know about the status of his remains and personal effects. They wrote a letter to the department of war inquiring about the matters.

Letter from Clayton Bissell regarding loss of Cpl. Ganoe

Letter from W. Urbach to Ganoe's family.

The letter to the left is a response to the Ganoes regarding the questions they asked. It is dated March 1, 1943 but it is not known exactly when the Ganoes recieved it. It is from the Headquarters of U.S. Air Forces in India and China, Tenth U.S. Air Force. It reads as follows:

Dear Mrs. Ganoe,

General Bissell has asked me to acknowledge and reply to your letter on February 2, 1943, inquiring as to the manner in which your son was killed and the disposition of his body.

Your son was killed on January 12, 1943, in India, in an accident involving two aircraft which collided in mid-air. His remains are at present in India near the station to which he was assigned. At the termination of the war, his remains will be returned to the United States if you so desire. His personal belongings have been forwarded to you. However, there will be some delay due to transportation difficulties.


Colonel, A.G.D.,
Adjutant General


Nora refused to have her son's remains delivered to the United States. She would never be convinced that her son's, and ONLY her son's remains would be in his casket. She knew about how they never found all the remains of each person. She knew that they couldn't match all the remains together. She also wanted her son to rest in peace. They held a military funeral for each soldier that was killed on that airfield in New Delhi, India. Pictured below is an actual photo of that funeral. This photo was discovered by accident by Finley's nephew, Gary Fields, while Gary removed Finley's military portrait from its frame to be scanned onto the computer. It had been hidden back there for almost 50 years!

Finley H. Ganoe funeral in CBI



Nora once called Finley's girlfriend to request the return of his watch. Lois refused, and to this day it is not known wether she has the watch or not. Nora became the first Gold Star Mother of World War II in Giles County. This was not an honor sought after. A mother recieved a gold star when she had a son killed during time of war. Finley was awarded the Citation of Honor for his efforts in the war. Not only was Finley the first person from Giles County to volunteer for the Army during the war, as a terrible twist of fate would have it, he was also the first casualty from Giles County in WWII. Several years after the war ended, Finley and the rest of the soldiers buried in India were moved to their final resting place in Hawaii.

Finley's father Grover lived to be 71 years old. He died of pnuemonia in the summer of 1957. Nora lived to be 84, dying of natural causes in the fall of 1977. Finley was preceded in death by two brothers, Charles Clifford Ganoe and Roy Ganoe and one sister, Margie Ganoe. Finley left behind several brothers; William Rhenard Ganoe, James Garfield Ganoe, Harold Jackson Ganoe, Charles Sherman Ganoe, Junior Lindberg Ganoe and Bobby Scott Ganoe. He also left behind several sisters; Louis Frances Ganoe, Helen Virginia Ganoe, Lula Marie Ganoe, Pauline Katheryn Ganoe, and Betty Lou Ganoe.

Several of Finley's siblings are still living. Garfield is a widower living in Peterstown, WV. Marie Ganoe Link is living in Roanoke, Va with her husband Rudolph. Pauline Ganoe Rankin is living in Peterstown, WV with her husband, Bill. Lindy Ganoe is living in Roanoke, Va with his wife Betsy. Bobby Ganoe is living in Newport News, Va with his wife Mary. And Betty Ganoe Ferguson is living in Rich Creek, Virginia with her husband William Ferguson.


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