Biden's Remarks on Uncle's WWII Death Conflict With Records

He claims he was shot down and might have been eaten by cannibals
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 18, 2024 7:31 AM CDT
Biden Gets Details of Uncle's WWII Death Wrong
President Biden reaches to touch the name of his uncle Ambrose J. Finnegan, Jr., on a wall at a Scranton war memorial, Wednesday, April 17, 2024,.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Biden misstated key details about his uncle's death in World War II as he honored the man's wartime service on Wednesday and said Donald Trump was unworthy of serving as commander in chief. While in Pittsburgh, Biden spoke about his uncle, 2nd Lt. Ambrose J. Finnegan Jr., aiming to draw a contrast with reports that Trump, while president, had called fallen service members "suckers" and "losers," the AP reports.

  • Finnegan, the brother of Biden's mother, "got shot down in New Guinea, and they never found the body because there used to be—there were a lot of cannibals, for real, in that part of New Guinea," the president said, per NBC News. Biden, who also relayed a version of the story earlier in the day after stopping by the memorial in Scranton, was off on the particulars.

  • The US government's record of missing service members does not attribute Finnegan's death to hostile action or indicate cannibals were any factor. Finnegan died on May 14, 1944, while a passenger on an Army Air Forces plane that, "for unknown reasons," was forced to ditch in the Pacific Ocean off the northern coast of New Guinea, records state. "Both engines failed at low altitude, and the aircraft's nose hit the water hard," the listing for Finnegan states. "Three men failed to emerge from the sinking wreck and were lost in the crash."
  • "We have a tradition in my family my grandfather started," said Biden, a toddler at the time of his uncle's death in 1944. "When you visit a gravesite of a family member—it's going to sound strange to you—but you say three Hail Marys. And that's what I was doing at the site."
  • White House spokesman Andrew Bates did not address the discrepancy between the agency's records and Biden's account when he issued a statement on the matter. "President Biden is proud of his uncle's service in uniform," Bates said, adding Finnegan "lost his life when the military aircraft he was on crashed in the Pacific after taking off near New Guinea." Biden "highlighted his uncle's story as he made the case for honoring our 'sacred commitment ... to equip those we send to war and take care of them and their families when they come home,' and as he reiterated that the last thing American veterans are is 'suckers' or 'losers,'" Bates said.
(More President Biden stories.)

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