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Posthumous Medal of Honor given to family

| April 5, 2010 9:00 PM

RICHFIELD (AP) - A Medal of Honor and 48-star flag has been presented to the southern Idaho family of a man credited with saving shipmates during the World War II Battle of the Coral Sea but who suffered fatal burns in the process and was buried at sea.

About 850 people attended the posthumous memorial and medal presentation for Oscar V. Peterson on Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Richfield.

A permanent marker to honor Peterson was also placed in the Richfield cemetery.

Military records show that in 1942, the 42-year-old Peterson was the chief watertender aboard the USS Neosho, an oil tanker, when it was attacked and damaged by Japanese dive bombers.

Peterson closed four bulkhead steam line valves to keep the ship operational and floating so survivors could be rescued four days later, but he suffered third-degree burns on his face, arms, shoulders and hands.

"For the (commanding officer) to save as many men as possible for a potential rescue by another ship was in part available because Chief Peterson closed those main steam lines," said Rear Adm. James A. Symonds, commander of the Navy's Regional Northwest, who presented the family with the flag and medal.

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