Survivor strives to keep memory of Pearl Harbor alive
December 7, 1941 started out like any other day for Navy Ship’s Cook First Class Roland Peachee.
The 29-year-old Indiana native was working at his portable butcher shop aboard the USS Rigel as it was docked in the bustling Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
It was just before 8 a.m. when Peachee’s life changed forever.
For about two hours Japanese planes attacked the U.S Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning and most sailors were still sleeping.
Peachee knew immediately “when ships started exploding and being turned over” that hell had broken loose.
“They would fly real low down through the Navy yard there and drop bombs, then they’d shoot at anyone,” said Peachee, 94, as he recalled the day that lives in infamy. “We were fortunate that the plane’s guns were fixed. They did not rotate or move around so if they didn’t get right on you, they didn’t get you.”
Peachee said the chaos seemed to last forever, as has his memory of the Japanese sneak attack that claimed 2,403 souls and sank or damaged 188 aircraft, eight U.S. Navy battleships, three destroyers, three cruisers, and one minelayer.
After 69 years, the memories have faded a bit, he said. The part that remains unspoiled is the terror a young Peachee felt.
In 1980, he moved to Carson City and joined Nevada Chapter 1 of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.Though the chapter disbanded two years ago, Peachee still proudly passes out his business card identifying him as past president of the chapter. And when Pearl Harbor Day rolls around like it has today, he takes it upon himself to share his story.
Peachee suffered post traumatic stress from the incident. He said he still deals with the memories as he lies in bed at night. He attends counseling “every few weeks” in a group with people who’ve served in Vietnam and Korea.
“You can talk to people, lay it out and they all understand,” he said. “There are some in my opinion who went through worse than what I went through.”
Talking about it is cathartic for Peachee, despite that he often breaks down in tears at some of the thoughts that come to his mind.
And his mission is simple. Never forget.
“It should never be forgotten and it should never happen again. We’ve been very fortunate to not have something like that happen other than 9/11,” he said. “If people ignore this it will happen again.”