Sunday, August 15, 2010
CHIEF WATERTENDER PETER TOMICH 1893 - 1941
Petar Herceg 'Tonić' (Anglicized as Peter Tomich) (June 3, 1893 – December 7, 1941) was a United States Navy sailor who received the United States military's highest award, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in World War II.
Tomich was an ethnic Croat born as Petar Herceg, with family nickname 'Tonić', in Prolog near Ljubuški, Austria-Hungary, today Bosnia and Herzegovina.
World War I
During World War I he served in the U.S. Army. After enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1919, he initially served in the destroyer USS Litchfield (DD-336).
World War II
By 1941, he had become a chief watertender on board the training and target ship USS Utah. On December 7, 1941, while the ship lay in Pearl Harbor, moored off Ford Island, she was torpedoed during Japan's raid on Pearl Harbor. Tomich was on duty in a boiler room. As Utah began to capsize, he remained below, securing the boilers and making certain that other men escaped, and so lost his life. For his "distinguished conduct and extraordinary courage" at that time, he posthumously received the Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor was on display at the Navy's Senior Enlisted Academy (Tomich Hall). Later, the decoration was presented to Tomich's family on the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier in the southern Adriatic city of Split in Croatia, on 18 May 2006, sixty-four years after US President Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded it to this brave Croatian emigrant.
The destroyer escort USS Tomich (DE-242), 1943–1974, was named in honor of Chief Watertender Tomich. The United States Navy Senior Enlisted Academy in Newport, RI is named Tomich Hall in honor of Chief Watertender Tomich.
Medal of Honor Citation
Rank and organization: Chief Watertender, U.S. Navy. Born: 3 June 1893, Prolog, Austria. Accredited to: New Jersey. Citation: For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, and extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor by the Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Although realizing that the ship was capsizing, as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life .