Washington City to honor USS Utah, sunk at Pearl Harbor

Aug 24, 2023, 5:32 PM | Updated: 5:32 pm

Rusty ship in harbor...

The U.S.S. Utah Memorial in Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. (National Park Service)

(National Park Service)

WASHINGTON CITY, Utah — The Washington City Council will pass a resolution to honor those killed on the U.S.S. Utah in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

It is to honor the 58 people killed that day aboard a ship first commissioned on Aug. 31, 1911, after the idea was made public in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt on a visit to Salt Lake City.

“We don’t feel like history has paid a proper tribute to the U.S.S. Utah or the legacy of the sailors that died there,” Kurt Ivie, Washington City council member said. “Today we are going to be presenting a resolution to the country and to the city that what we call, would right the ship.”

The U.S.S. Utah while under construction in New Jersey in 1909. It was launched Dec. 23 of that year and commissioned on Aug. 31, 1911. (Utah Historical Society)

Ivie said one person killed in the Pearl Harbor attack was a Utahn, but other stories also color the tragedy of that day on board the Utah, a target ship. It was one of only three ships that were a total loss and never returned to service, along with the U.S.S. Arizona and U.S.S. Oklahoma battleships.

It remains in the water, on the opposite side of Ford Island from the U.S.S. Arizona, with its memorial as a national park. NPS.gov says the U.S.S. Utah is not currently accessible to the general public.

Ivie said a Congressional Medal of Honor was given to Peter Tomich, on board the ship as it sank. It was said that Tomich realized the ship was capsizing and remained at his engineering plant in the Utah until he saw all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and lost his life by doing so.

His medal was awarded posthumously on Jan. 4, 1944, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website. His medal was returned to the Navy when no living relatives could be found. In 1947, Gov. Herbert B. Maw made Tomich an honorary resident of Utah and the medal was given to the state as the official guardian of the man called a hero. The presentation was made with full military honors in the rotunda of the Utah Capitol.

face of Peter Tomich

Peter Tomich, a WWII U.S. Navy Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. He had no known relatives and was also known as Petar Herceg-Tonic. His remains were not recovered from the U.S.S. Utah, sunk at Pearl Harbor. (CMOHS)

Many of the sailors who escaped heard a knocking from the sunken hull of the ship and some returned to knock back.

In another story of the ship, Ivie said one of the sailor’s daughters had died before the attack and her ashes were on board the Utah, awaiting a burial at sea.

“They’ve been entombed there on the Utah and people like to think that those 58 sailors are watching over this little girl there,” Ivie said.

The last minutes of the U.S.S. Utah before it capsized, as photographed before the U.S.S. Tangier, moored behind the Utah. (U.S. Navy)

The first aerial torpedo slammed into Utah’s port at 8:01 a.m. as the crew raised the flag.

“They were actually putting the flag up on the fan tail of the ship when the first bomb, which was the first bomb of World War II, hit the Utah,” he said.

He said a Washington City citizen was able to find a flag that was found on the U.S.S. Utah.

“We will display that flag here, after it is unveiled at our council meeting tonight. We will hang that … in our city hall here, in perpetuity in respect and honor of those that died representing our great state’s name.”


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Washington City to honor USS Utah, sunk at Pearl Harbor