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First Name: Oscar

Last Name: Peterson

Birthplace: Prentice, WI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)

Rating: Water Tender Chief Petty Officer

Middle Name: Verner

Date of Birth: 27 August 1899

Date of Death: 13 May 1942

Rank or Rate: Chief Petty Officer

Years Served: 1920-1942
Oscar Verner Peterson

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Oscar Verner Peterson

Chief Watertender, U.S. Navy

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Chief Watertender Oscar Verner Peterson (27 August 1899 - 13 May 1942) was a U.S. Navy sailor who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Coral Sea in World War II.

Oscar Verner Peterson was born on 27 August 1899 in Prentice, WI, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 8 December 1920. After his initial training, he spent his entire Navy career of over twenty years on sea duty aboard various ships. He and his wife, Lola, had two sons, Fred and Donald.

By the time the United States had entered into World War II, Peterson had achieved the rank of Chief Watertender. He was assigned to the USSĀ Neosho, an oiler ship operating in the Pacific Theater.

On 7 May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Neosho was heavily damaged by Japanese dive bombers. In one bombing raid, Peterson and members of the repair party he led were severely wounded. Despite his injuries, he managed to close four bulkhead steam line valves, but suffered third-degree burns to his face, shoulders, arms and hands in the process. By shutting the valves, Peterson isolated the steam to the engine room and helped keep the ship operational. The Neosho eventually sank on 11 May and the surviving crewmen were picked up by another ship. Peterson died of his burn injuries on 13 May. For his actions during the battle, Peterson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Chief Watertender, U.S. Navy.

Citation: For extraordinary courage and conspicuous heroism above and beyond the call of duty while in charge of a repair party during an attack on the USS Neosho by enemy Japanese aerial forces on 7 May 1942. Lacking assistance because of injuries to the other members of his repair party and severely wounded himself, Peterson, with no concern for his own life, closed the bulkhead stop valves and in so doing received additional burns which resulted in his death. His spirit of self-sacrifice and loyalty, characteristic of a fine seaman, was in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

For unknown reasons, his family did not receive his medal in a formal presentation ceremony, as was typical. Instead, the Medal of Honor and accompanying citation were mailed to his widow.

After Peterson's death, his widow and children moved from California to Richfield, ID. His wife, Lola, died in 1991; his son, Donald, died in 2008.

On 3 April 2010, sixty-eight years after the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Medal of Honor presentation ceremony was held to make amends for the one Peterson's wife never received. Rear Admiral James A. Symonds presented the medal and a forty-eight star U.S. flag to Peterson's surviving son, Fred. The ceremony, held at the Richfield meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was attended by roughly 850 people, including family members, veterans, and officials from the military and Idaho state government. A military-issued memorial marker for Peterson was placed in Richfield Cemetery the same day.


The U.S. Navy destroyer USSĀ Peterson was named in his honor.

Death and Burial

On 13 May 1942, Chief Watertender Oscar Verner Peterson died of his burn injuries received in action on 7 May 1942. He was buried at sea, several hundred miles off the coast of Australia.

A Memorial Marker for Chief Watertender Oscar Verner Peterson is located at Richfield Cemetery in Richfield, Lincoln County, ID.

His name is also inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Manila City, Philippines.

Honoree ID: 1596   Created by: MHOH




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