Skip to main content

Navy Chief Watertender Peter Tomich - World War II

USCIS Headquarters Conference Center, Washington, DC

Picture of Navy Chief Watertender Peter Tomich

Peter Tomich (Tonic) was born in 1893 in Prolog in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, near the Croatian border. He immigrated to the United States in 1913 and joined the U.S. Army in 1917. He became a U.S. citizen and, 10 days after his Army enlistment expired, joined the U.S. Navy.

Tomich was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for actions he took during Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

“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, Territory of Hawaii, by the Japanese forces on Dec. 7, 1941.

“Although realizing that the ship was capsizing, as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Chief Watertender Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. UTAH (AG-16), until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.

                                                                                                                                                                            —from Peter Tomich’s Medal of Honor citation

Since Tomich had no known relatives, his Medal of Honor was awarded to the destroyer named after him when the ship was commissioned in 1943.

The USS Tomich was mothballed in 1946. The next year, Utah Gov. Herbert B. Maw proclaimed Tomich an honorary citizen of that state and guardianship of his Medal was granted to Utah.

In 1989, the U.S. Navy built the Senior Enlisted Academy in Newport, R.I., and named the building Tomich Hall. Chief Tomich's Medal of Honor is on display on the quarterdeck there.

This text is from the official citations, military historical records, obituaries and other text posted on the Internet, including, and the Military Times Hall of Valor. 

Last Reviewed/Updated: