Srecko Herceg, a descendant of World War II hero Peter Tomich, saluted yesterday during his arrival at the Medal of Honor ceremony in Split, Croatia.
Pearl Harbor hero's medal delivered to Croatian family
His kin are found to receive the U.S. Medal of Honor in a ceremony in Croatia
SPLIT, Croatia » His courage -- and death -- at Pearl Harbor earned him the U.S. Medal of Honor. But it took more than 60 years for Peter Tomich's descendants to be tracked down to receive his medal, one of the highest U.S. awards.
Yesterday, Srecko Herceg, one of Tomich's relatives, received the medal from Adm. Harry Ulrich III, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe, aboard the USS Enterprise.
"A common man became uncommon and left fear aside -- such people we call heroes," Ulrich said at a ceremony on the deck of the frigate moored in the Croatian southern port of Split.
Tomich, a Croatian immigrant to the United States, died when Japan torpedoed the USS Utah on Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. Chief Watertender Tomich ordered the ship's crew to leave while he stayed behind in the engineering plant to ensure that all boilers were secured to prevent them from exploding.
He was awarded the medal by President Franklin Roosevelt, but U.S. authorities had trouble locating his next of kin.
Herceg, a Croat descendant of Tomich, was recently tracked down in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"It is a special honor to receive this medal in the name of my cousin, particularly because my country was also under attack recently," said Herceg, a retired colonel in the Croatian army.
The sunken ship USS Utah is still at Pearl Harbor, bearing the inscription saying its crew was saved by Tomich.