Collinsville Pearl Harbor Survivor Dies

Wednesday, April 1st 2009, 5:25 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Terry Hood, The News On 6

COLLINSVILLE, OK -- An American hero was laid to rest on Wednesday.  Charlie Peay was 88 years old, a Collinsville native, and Pearl Harbor survivor.

Charlie Peay was 17 years old when he joined the Navy.  He was remembered as a man devoted to family and country.

"He was a guy who was straight forward, honest.  If he gave his word, all you need to know is Charlie Peay said so," said Charlie's son, Dale Peay.

Charlie Peay was honored as a hero on Wednesday.  Photographs tell his story:  devoted husband, loving grandfather, and survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"He served on the USS Maryland, which was a big battleship tied alongside the Oklahoma," said Charlie's son, Dale Peay.

Peay often talked of that tragic day, sharing stories with school kids and anyone who would listen.

"He would tear up a lot when he would talk about buddies, things he saw sometimes. I don't think he ever told anybody everything.  He just doesn't want to," said Charlie's granddaughter Mandi Weems.

In 2003, he told his story to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library.

"I thought, 'What am I into?' What I was into and wondered how we were going to get out of it," said Charlie Peay in September of 2003.

Peay started the morning of December 7th, 1941 getting ready for some free time on shore in the Hawaiian Islands.  In the interview, he recalls hearing explosions and feeling the ship shake.

The USS Oklahoma was tied to his ship at the time.  Peay says when he got to the main deck the Oklahoma was rolling over and the Japanese were shooting in every direction.

"I tried to outrun those bullets, going to the bow of the ship, there was a hatch and I started to run down that hatch and all of the sudden I realized I was in the restroom and there was petitions in there. The next thing I knew I was getting up and everything was black and red and smoky and I didn't know where I was," recounted Charlie Peay.

Peay eventually helped the ship's gunners fire back at the Japanese.  Later in the war, he was part of the battle that put the final stop to the Japanese navy.

Now, 67 years later and a world away, Charlie Peay's story is coming to an end, but his memory will live on and his life will not be forgotten.

"If you didn't meet Charlie it's too late, but I'll tell you, you missed your chance.  He was a hell of a guy," said Charlie's son, Dale Peay.

There are believed to be a dozen Pearl Harbor survivors still living in the Tulsa area and around 30 living statewide.

The family asks anyone wishing to pay tribute to Charlie to make a donation to the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.