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Navy to Present Medal of Honor to Family of World War II Vet

By Lt. Chris Servello, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2006 – The Croatian family of a U.S. Navy enlisted man will accept a posthumous Medal of Honor here next week for the man's heroism during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Navy Adm. Harry Ulrich, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, will present a posthumously awarded Medal of Honor to the family of Chief Watertender Peter Tomich at a ceremony May 18. Retired Croatian army Lt. Col. Srecko Herceg Tonic will receive the U.S. military's highest award on behalf of the Tomich family.

Tomich, a U.S. citizen of Croatian heritage, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was born in 1893 in Prolog, in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the Croatian border.

After coming to the United States, Tomich enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Slocum, in New Rochelle, N.Y., on June 6, 1917. After service in World War I, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Jan. 23, 1919, rising to the rank of chief watertender, equivalent to today's chief petty officer.

Tomich was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions aboard the battleship USS Utah on Dec. 7, 1941, during the surprise Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

During the attack, USS Utah sustained major damage from a Japanese torpedo and gunfire. Knowing the ship would sink, Tomich returned to his post in the boiler room to evacuate the personnel and keep the boilers from exploding so he could get as many men as possible out alive before the ship sank. Tomich sacrificed his own life to save the lives of his shipmates.

The destroyer USS Tomich was named in his honor in 1943, and the Navy's Senior Enlisted Academy in Newport, R.I., is housed in Tomich Hall.

(Navy Lt. Chris Servello is assigned to U.S. Naval Forces Europe and 6th Fleet.)

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