|The decoration was presented to Lunney at a ceremony in the Croatian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York on Sept. 26th 2007. Admiral Lunney invested a lot of efforts, time and enthusiasm to find the family of Croat Peter Tomich, who was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, so as to present them with the Congressional Medal of Honor.|
26 September 2007 - New York
Croatian President Stjepan Mesić has decorated retired US Admiral J. Robert Lunney with the Order of Trefoil. The decoration was presented to Lunney at a ceremony in the Croatian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. Admiral Lunney invested a lot of efforts, time and enthusiasm to find the family of Croat Peter Tomich, who was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, so as to present them with the Congressional Medal of Honor, President Mesić said.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress, it is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor. The decoration was presented to Tomich's family on the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier in the southern Adriatic city of Split on 18 May 2006, sixty-four years after US President Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded it to this brave Croatian emigrant.
Tomich was decorated 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 by the Japanese forces on 7 December 1941.
At the ceremony on Wednesday, Admiral Lunney said the US Navy had not encouraged him to search for Tomich's family, on the contrary the Navy said this was irrelevant, adding that he was alone in his efforts and was exceptionally proud to receive this Croatian state decoration.
26.09.2007. - New York
Govor predsjednika Mesića prigodom dodjele odlikovanja admiralu Lunneyu
Uvaženi gosti i uzvanici,
Gospođe i gospodo,
Čini mi osobito zadovoljstvo što mogu odlikovati čovjeka koji je posvetio mnogo energije, mnogo vremena i mnogo entuzijazma tome, da privede kraju priču započetu u vrijeme II. Svjetskog rata. Pomogao je pronaći obitelj Hrvata poginuloga u napadu na Pearl Harbour, kako bi joj bilo predano visoko odlikovanje kojime je taj pripadnik američkih oružanih snaga, naš zemljak, bio odlikovan.
Ta divna ljudska priča, priča o herojstvu u teškim vremenima kojima su carevali smrt i razaranje, dobila je svoj pravi i logičan kraj kada su članovi obitelji vojnika koji nije štedio sebe da bi spasio druge i koji je u tome plemenitom naporu dao svoj život, primili njemu namijenjeno priznanje.
A potpuni kraj ta priča dobiva danas, kada - kao Predsjednik Republike Hrvatske - mogu odati priznanje čovjeku kojemu zahvaljujemo što se to moglo dogoditi.
Prilika je to i da se podsjetimo II. Svjetskog rata, velike, globalne bitke za slobodu pojedinaca i naroda, za slobodni razvoj država, za demokraciju i ravnopravnost. I - nemojmo zaboraviti - prilika je to da se podsjetimo i ratnoga savezništva iskovanog u toj borbi, savezništva što je jedan od nezaobilaznih temeljaca hrvatsko-američkog prijateljstva.
Na tradicijama odnosa stvorenih u tim, danas već dalekim danima, valja graditi dalje - mada u promijenjenim uvjetima i u svijetu u kojemu se vode neke druge bitke i neki drugi ratovi. No, ideali generacije koja je na svojim plećima iznijela teret II. Svjetskog rata, ideali mira i suradnje i danas bi trebali biti ključne odrednice ponašanja odgovornih država, svih država, na svjetskoj sceni.
Gospodine admirale, zahvaljujem na naporima koje ste neumorno poduzimali, čestitam Vam na uspjehu kojime su oni bili okrunjeni i sa zadovoljstvom Vam predajem Red hrvatskog trolista.
[Acknowledge introduction and recognize distinguished guests]
During World War II at the age of 17, I was assigned to the Naval Amphibious Forces, Pacific and while passing through Pearl Harbor I viewed the capsized hulk of the USS UTAH. Only years later did I learn that over fifty crewmen, including Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich, are still entombed to this day in the sunken ship.
The award was presented in recognition of the personal initiative and the essential role played by Rear Admiral Lunney in getting the only posthumously awarded Medal of Honor never presented to a next of kin awarded to the appropriate person. The Medal of Honor in question was awarded to Chief Watertender Peter Tomich, who was killed in action during the sneak attack on
In 1997, Rear Admiral Lunney undertook to find the next of kin of Chief Tomich, a Croatian national, who, after serving in the US Army in the First World War, joined the US Navy and rose to the highest enlisted rank, Chief Petty Officer. When Tomich (as Navy records had his name) emigrated to the
While Bob Lunney undertook this patriotic quest relying entirely on his own resources, he was not without allies in his knight-errantry. Rear Admiral Companion Robert Rosen, of the Order of Merit, and (until June of 2007) Commander of the New York Naval Militia, authorized him to execute the mission on behalf of the NY Naval Militia. The Croatian Genealogical Society were extremely helpful in the defining of the parameters in which the search would be undertaken. However, between Turkish invasion and occupation, wars, revolutions and world wars, civil records could not be presumed to be complete. There is, however, a most reliable source of vital records which has survived all of the aforementioned travails. It is the records of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), the Franciscans, who went underground and continued to minister to the people, for centuries, throughout Turkish, Nazi and Communist occupations. In this instance the necessary vital records were found in the Franciscan Abbey in Humac.
The award of the Medal of Honor to Chief Tomich by President Franklin Roosevelt was given more tangible meaning for Bob Lunney when he saw the capsized hull of the battleship USS UTAH (where Tomich and 57 others of the crew remain entombed), as a seventeen-year-old Quartermaster striker, when he passed through Pearl Harbor during the Second World War, assigned to Naval Amphibious Forces, Pacific, enroute to Kwajelein in the Marshall Islands. In honor of Chief's Tomich's sacrifice, the Navy, in World War II, commissioned a Destroyer Escort, the USS TOMICH. For years the Tomich Medal of Honor occupied a place of honor in the State Capitol in
Rear Admiral Lunney is a former National President of the Naval Reserve Association, and, until recently, a practicing attorney in
But in 2006, Rear Admiral Lunney, in the company of Rear Admiral Rosen, was an honored guest on board the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65) off Split, Croatia, as Admiral Harry Ulrich, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, on behalf of the President of the United States, presented the Medal of Honor of Chief Watertender Peter Tomich to his kinsman, Lieutenant Colonel Srecko Herzeg-Tonić, himself a retired, and highly decorated, Croatian Army veteran of the Croatian War for Independence.
The visit of the President of Croatia to the United Nations in
Rear Admiral Lunney is no stranger to international affairs. Recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict he served in the US 7th Fleet as a staff officer on the MSTS (Military Sea Transportation Service) SS MEREDITH VICTORY, both in the Inchon invasion, and in the Hungnam evacuation. The MEREDITH VICTORY was the last ship out of
Witnessing the award at the Croatian Mission to the UN were Bob's wife Joan and son Alexander (both of whom had accompanied him on his trip to Croatia), as well as a coterie of Croatian diplomats and military attachés, and also officers of the New York Naval Militia (in accordance with Title 10 US Code, and with protocols with the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, members of the Naval, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Reserves may volunteer to be available to serve their state through membership in the Naval Militia). Among those also in attendance were Marine Colonel Chevalier Wayne J. McGrath, GCTJ, GMTJ, Grand Chancellor of the Grand Priory of the United States of America, and Marine Lieutenant Colonel Chevalier Glen J. Sadowski, KCTJ and Naval Captain Chevalier Liam Murphy, GCTJ, GMTJ, all also of the Priory of Saint Patrick. Liam Murphy was with Bob Lunney in his home in
More photos of a great atmosphere
Admiral Lunney with his wife Joan
Former UN Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey with president Stjepan Mesić in a friendly exchange
Former UN Ambassador Sacirbey with President Stjepan Mesić in a constructive dialogue
Admiral Lunney in the company of his son Alexandar and his wife Joan
Nenad Bach, Ed Andrus, president of NFCA, Admiral Lunney and Ambassador Sacirbey
Captain Charles Haunss, LCOL Glenn Sadowski, Richard Wagner, Admiral Lunney, CDR Phyllis Zagano. (front right Ambassador Amir Muharemi)
Joyous UN Ambassador Mirjana Mladineo, Admiral Lunney and Joan Lunney
Nenad Bach, President Stjepan Mesić and Vjera Bach in a freindly dialogue
John J. Caffrey, Admiral Lunney, Dr. Corinne Devereux and Bro. James P. Kearney
Captain Charles Haunss, Richard Wagner and Admiral J. Robert Lunney
Joan Lunney and President Stjepan Mesić
Dino Rulli Ph.D. , an honorary Croatian and a long time friend
Most of the photos by Marija Kundek, official photographer and Dino Rulli, Ph.D. a friend who volunteered.
Croatian president awards Bronxville man
who researched Medal of Honor recipient
(Original publication: September 27, 2007)
NEW YORK - A Bronxville man was presented with a medal by the president of the Republic of Croatia yesterday for his efforts to have a Pearl Harbor naval hero's Medal of Honor presented to his family in the Balkans.
J. Robert Lunney received the Order of the Croatian Trefoil from President Stjepan Mesic in a ceremony at the Croatian mission to the United Nations.
"This is indeed a great honor," Lunney said. "The reason we accept awards is to invigorate others to do good - as individuals, groups and whole countries. Our friendship with Croatia should grow on the basis of honorable history, a history of shared values - values that are universal and destined to radiate throughout the world."
Croatian and U.S. military and diplomatic officials, as well as Lunney's wife, Joan, and son, Alexander, attended the ceremony.
Lunney, who retired from his White Plains law practice this year, spent nearly a decade researching the story of Chief Watertender Peter Tomich, who was killed Dec. 7, 1941, aboard the USS Utah after it was hit by a Japanese torpedo and began to sink.
Tomich, a Croatian native who had joined the service in 1917, is credited with saving hundreds of his shipmates by ordering them to leave, then going alone below deck to shut off the Utah's boilers, preventing a massive explosion. Tomich and 57 crew members went down with the ship and remain entombed inside. There were 461 survivors.
Tomich was posthumously awarded the nation's highest honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but the Navy never was able to find any of his relatives. For decades, it remained the only Medal of Honor in the 20th century that was not presented to its recipient's family.
Lunney was a 17-year-old Navy enlistee when he saw the capsized hulk of the Utah while passing through Pearl Harbor during the war. Lunney, now a rear admiral in the New York Naval Militia, said he was always intrigued by the Tomich story.
He began to research Tomich and, with help from the Croatian Genealogical Society, discovered that the name had been changed from Tonic during his years in the service. In 1997, Lunney traveled to Croatia and found baptism records and other archives from a Franciscan church that eventually led him to Screcko Herzeg-Tonic, a highly decorated Croatian officer and distant relative of Tomich's.
It took several years for Lunney to convince the Navy of his findings, but last year he was a guest of honor aboard the USS Enterprise in Split, Croatia, when Adm. Harry Ulrich, commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, presented Tomich's Medal of Honor to Herzeg-Tonic.
Mesic said through a translator that the award was bestowed upon Lunney "for his efforts and for his hard work. Admiral Lunney was the only one who worked so hard to find (Tomich's ancestors). It gives me great pleasure to present this to the person who showed such tireless efforts."
The Order of the Croatian Trefoil is awarded to Croatian and foreign citizens for extraordinary merit won for the Republic of Croatia in war, the direct threat of war, or in exceptional circumstances in peace.
Formated for CROWN by Nenad Bach
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