Peter Tomich -- born on 3 June 1893 in the village of Prolog, in what is now Yugoslavia -- enlisted in the United States Navy on 23 January 1919 and initially served in Litchfield (DD-336).
On the morning of 7 December 1941, Chief Watertender Tomich was on duty in the boiler room of Utah (AG-16) while the ship lay in Pearl Harbor, moored off Ford Island. Shortly before 0800, Japanese planes from a powerful carrier task force swept down on the unsuspecting American fleet. Within the first few moments of the attack, Utah, mistaken for a small battleship, took two torpedoes and began flooding rapidly.
As the ship began to roll over on her beam ends and "abandon ship" was ordered, Tomich lingered below, securing the boilers and making certain that all men were out of the engineering spaces. In so doing, Tomich was unable to escape before Utah capsized and trapped him below. For his "extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety" during the attack, Tomich was awarded, posthumously, the Medal of Honor.
(DE-242: displacement 1,200; 1ength 306'0"; beam 36'10"; draft 12'3"; speed 19.5 knots; complement 216; armament 3 3-inch, 2 40 millimeter, 8 20 millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (hedgehog); class Edsall)
Tomich (DE-242) was laid down on 15 September 1942 at Houston, Tex., by the Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 28 December 1942; sponsored by Mrs. O. L. Hammonds; and commissioned on 27 July 1943, Lt. Cmdr. H. A. Hull in command.
Following commissioning, Tomich got underway from Galveston on 12 August 1943 and reached New Orleans the following day. The escort vessel departed Louisiana waters on the 19th, bound for Bermuda and four weeks of shakedown training. On 23 September, Tomich, in company with Farquhar (DE-139), departed Bermuda and escorted the fleet oiler Merrimack (AO-37) to Norfolk before sailing for Charleston, S.C., and availability.
Tomich sailed for Cuba on 9 October 1943 and further training in Caribbean waters, reaching Guantanamo Bay on the 12th. Five days later, the escort vessel rendezvoused with USAT George Washington and escorted her to Kingston, Jamaica. Tomich immediately returned to Cuba. Upon her arrival back at Guantanamo Bay later the same day, 17 October, she received orders to search for Dorado (SS-248) that had sailed from New London on 6 October and had been expected to arrive at the Canal Zone on the 14th. Tomich hunted for the missing submarine until the 22nd but failed to locate any trace of her.
Six days later, the destroyer escort set course for Hampton Roads to screen the submarine Pike (SS-173) to Norfolk. Released from this duty on the 30th, she returned to Guantanamo Bay before heading north again and making port at Norfolk on 5 November.
Nine days later, Tomich joined the screen of Convoy UGS-24, bound for French Morocco. On 2 December 1943, after her charges had all made port, she dropped anchor off Casablanca. Arriving in New York on Christmas moraine, 1943. after escorting Convoy GUS-24, Tomich secured alongside pier "K" of the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., for an availability which lasted into 1944.
On 5 January 1944, Tomich departed Brooklyn and proceeded to Block Island Sound for gunnery and antisubmarine warfare training off Montauk Point, Long Island. Five days later, the ship steamed for Norfolk, Va., in company with other units of Escort Division (CortDiv) 7, to join other ships of Task Force 63 in escorting UGS-30 to Casablanca. After a brief independent run to Gibraltar, where she moored alongside famed British battleship HMS Warspite, Tomich departed the British base on 4 February and rendezvoused with GUS-29 the next day.
Detached from the convoy screen on the 8th, she proceeded to the Azores, where she met cargo ships Phoenis Banning and Abraham Baldwin. Rejoining GUS-29 with her two charges, Tomich continued ocean escort duties through the 17th. On the following day, the destroyer escort again received orders for independent duty and escorted Mattaponi (AO-41) and Sangara to Bermuda before returning north to the New York Navy Yard for availability commencing on 22 February.
Tomich got underway on 5 March 1944 for Bayonne, N.J., where she underwent deperming before proceeding to Montauk Point for refresher training. The destroyer escort sailed for Hampton Roads and arrived at Norfolk on the llth. Two days later, she sailed for Tunisia as an escort for UGS-36.
On 30 March 1944, the convoy passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, bound for Bizerte. During the evening watch of the 31st, Tomich homed in on a sonar contact and went to general quarters, proceeding to track down the echo. Dropping two 13-charge patterns, Tomich remained at general quarters throughout the night and instituted an antisubmarine patrol in company with HMS Black Swan. About 0401, just a minute after the end of the mid watch, as Tomich rejoined the screen, her lookouts spotted enemy aircraft off her port bow. Zig-zagging independently on the port bow of the convoy, the destroyer escort opened fire with her entire antiaircraft battery at 0410. During the 20-minute attack, the enemy aircraft, twin-engined Junkers Ju. 88's, came in low and fast; but the heavy antiaircraft fire of the escorts drove off their attackers with no loss to themselves.
After all of her charges had reached port safely, Tomich was assigned to homeward-bound GUS-36 but detached on 13 April 1944 to proceed to Oran, Algeria, for inspection of her starboard shaft. After investigation revealed that all was in order, the ship rejoined her convoy on the 14th. She subsequently arrived at New York on 2 May and underwent availability at the navy yard before she proceeded to Casco Bay for refresher training.
Returning to Norfolk on the 20th, Tomich sailed as part of TF 64, escorting UGS-43 bound for Bizerte. After reaching North Africa, Tomich was detached from convoying long enough to escort tug Carib (AT-82), which was towing Menges (DE-320) to the Azores. When she arrived at Horta, Tomich rejoined homeward-bound GUS-43.
Availability at the New York Navy Yard in early July 1944 preceded further training exercises in Casco Bay, Maine, before the ship returned to Norfolk on 1 August to begin another round-trip escort mission with UGS-50 and GUS-50. Following another yard availability, she made a coastal convoy run from New York to Boston. Then, training in Casco Bay occupied the ship into October. On the 10th, Tomich arrived at Quonset Point, R.I., for special radar and antisubmarine warfare tests and exercises with Barracuda (SS-163) and shore-based planes from Quonset Point Naval Air Station. On the 13th, Tomich departed the area and returned to Casco Bay on the 14th for further training exercises before arriving at Norfolk on 4 November.
On 7 November 1944, in company with the rest of CortDiv 7 and the escort carrier Core (CVE-13), Tomich got underway from the Naval Operating Base at Hampton Roads for Bermuda and antisubmarine "hunter-killer" group training. Arriving on 10 November, the group engaged in intensive exercises for the remainder of the month before returning to New York on 6 December. Tomich operated along the east coast of the United States on antisubmarine operations in the western Atlantic for the remainder of the year 1944 and into the spring of 1945.
Following an overhaul at the Boston [Mass.] Navy Yard in May and June 1945, the ship steamed to the Caribbean. Departing Guantanamo Bay on 16 July, she transited the Panama Canal on the 18th and arrived at San Diego, Calif., on the 26th. Standing out of that port on the 31st, she conducted exercises while en route to Hawaii and reached Pearl Harbor on 7 August as the war in the Pacific drew to its climax. The inexorable advance of American air and naval forces, climaxed by the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, compelled Japan to surrender unconditionally. Meanwhile, Tomich continued training exercises in Hawaiian waters, prior to departing Pearl Harbor on 20 August, bound for the western Pacific.
Tomich made port at Saipan on the 29 August 1945 before proceeding independently to the Bonins on 1 September. The destroyer escort relieved the destroyer Helm (DD-388) on air-sea rescue station on 5 September for a five-day stint before heading for Iwo Jima and replenishment. She operated in waters between Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Saipan for the remainder of the year 1945 and into 1946 before heading for China. She made port at Tsingtao on 13 January 1946. She remained on duty in Chinese waters until 10 April when she departed Shanghai for Hawaii. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on 21 April, she proceeded via the west coast to the Panama Canal.
Following her arrival on the east coast, the ship underwent inactivation preparations at Charleston, S.C., from May through late August 1946. Tomich then proceeded to Mayport, Fla., and arrived there on 4 September. Following further inactivation procedures, Tomich was placed out of commission, in reserve, at Green Cove Springs, Fla., on 20 September 1946.
Moved to the Norfolk, Va., group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Tomich remained there until berthing congestion at the Inactive Ship Facility (InActShipFac) Norfolk compelled the Navy to propose transferring custody of four DEs to InActShipFac Orange, Texas. Consequently, the salvage vessel Hoist (ARS-40) took Tomich and Swasey (DE-248) in tow late on the afternoon of 1 June 1970 and set course for the Gulf of Mexico, arriving at their destination on 12 June, with InActShipFac Orange accepting custody of the two escort vessels for berthing there.
Ultimately, the Navy determined Tomich to be unfit for further service, and she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 November 1972 along with five similar vessels. Acquired by Andy International, Inc., Ship Dismantling Facility, Brownsville, Texas, in a bid opened on 13 December 1973, ex-Tomich was taken in tow by the tug Texan, of the Bludco Barge and Towing Co., on 7 March 1974, for her last voyage to the scrapper's.
Tomich received one battle star for her World War II service.
Robert J. Cressman
Updated 26 September 2017