Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

RADZINSKI, Victor Frederick

Peary and Houston

The USS Peary and the USS Houston before the first Japanese air raid.

Victor Frederick Radzinski, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class (375-96-97), was born in New Jersey in 1911, the son of Thomas and Rose Radzinski.  Victor and his brother George were part of a family of thirteen children. Their mother was widowed in 1929; in 1930 they were living at Rocky River, Cuyahoga, Ohio.

By 1942 Rose had four sons in the US Navy in the Pacific, four sons in the Army, and the youngest at seventeen wanted to join the paratroopers, but eventually joined the marines. Her two oldest sons worked in the US Navy shipyards and one daughter was also in the service.

George and Victor were the only two of her children to die in the war. They initially served on the Medusa, along with their younger brother, Harry. All three of them were serving on the Medusa in Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941. George and Victor transferred to the Peary in February 1942.

The Peary had endured a dramatic voyage to Australia in December 1941, after sustaining damage in a bombing attack on the Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines. The crew camouflaged the ship with green paint borrowed from the Army, and took refuge during daylight by anchoring close to the islands and covering the ship with palm fronds. Many of the Peary’s crew contracted malaria on this journey and eight men eventually died from the disease. They were attacked on 26 and 27 December, but avoided damage by violent manoeuvring. The Peary arrived in Darwin on 3 January.

In January the Peary was operating on anti-submarine patrol, convoy and escort missions; while escorting troops from Darwin to Timor, the ship was again attacked. They returned to Darwin, refuelled and set off again with the cruiser USS Houston. A fruitless submarine chase exhausted the Peary’s fuel, and she returned to Darwin in the early hours of 19 February.

The Peary was hit early in the bombing of Darwin, and appears to have sunk within 40 minutes. The fifth bomb to hit the Peary caused the fatal damage that sent her to the bottom and it was said to be the last bomb dropped that day on the harbour. The Peary’s machine guns continued to fire at the Japanese planes even as she sank. Eighty-eight officers and men, including Captain Bermingham, were killed; twenty of the fifty-seven survivors were wounded.

In December 1942 the Peary was awarded one battle star for service in World War II.

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