After nearly 47 years, Ronald "Pete" Perrine - a civilian prisoner of war who spent almost four years in Japanese prison camps during World War II - finally got some long deserved recognition Friday.
Utah Congressman Wayne Owens presented the 72-year-old Salt Lake resident with four medals from the U.S. Navy - the Prisoner of War Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. The Veteran's Administration also presented Perrine with an official Navy discharge."It's a great honor to have been involved with trying to rectify a great injustice which has now been solved," Owens said.
Perrine was a civilian hired as a construction worker on Wake Island the Pacific in 1941. He said the Japanese bombed the island at 11:55 a.m. on the same day Pearl Harbor was attacked.
He immediately asked to join the Marines, but was told he could not enlist. He was told martial law had been declared and he was already in the war. So he helped fill sandbags and helped transport wounded soldiers. Perrine said they managed to hold out on the island for 16 days - the Alamo of the Pacific - but were finally forced to surrender because they had nothing left to fight with.
Perrine said he was among a group of 77 civilians taken to prison camps in China and Japan. "Only two of us came home," he said. "Pretty short odds."
When he was first captured, Perrine weighed 163 pounds, but during the last three years of his incarcerations, he said he weighed under 100 pounds.
He was presented with an American flag which Owens had officially proclaimed in his honor as it flew over the capitol. Perrine continually thanked Owens for his months of efforts that gave him the recognition.
"I never imagined anything quite like this," he said, adding that he will display the medals on his wall at home. "I'm kind of proud of them after all of this time."
"They were earned," Owens replied. "It just took 47 years to get them."
Better late than never.