COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The second-oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor has passed away. He was 104.
Lt. Jim Downing was aboard the USS West Virginia the morning of December 7, 1941, when waves of Japanese bombers ambushed the naval base Pearl Harbor. During the attack, he memorized the names of the fallen and wrote to their parents letting them know their sons died as heroes. He also took down the last words of wounded sailors and sent them to their loved ones.
Downing entered the Navy at 19 and served with distinction for 24 years. He climbed the ranks becoming the commanding officer of the USS Patapsco from 1952 until 1955.
He retired to Colorado Springs after the service and in 2016 wrote a book about his experiences at Pearl Harbor titled "The Other Side of Infamy: My Journey through Pearl Harbor and the World of War." In doing so, he also claimed the title of the World’s Oldest Male Author according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
In November 2017, the Downing stopped by Good Day Atlanta to discuss his book and discuss the sacrifices and service of veterans.
“It was an absolute honor and pleasure to meet and interview Lt. Jim Downing last year, and share his incredible story on #GoodDayAtlanta,” Good Day Atlanta’s Buck Lanford wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday. “I will cherish my signed copy of his book.”
Many of the FOX 5 Atlanta team were able to meet Downing and shake his hand. He came across as a humble hero who would be quick to say the real heroes didn’t make it home that day. In Jim’s own words “Remember Pearl Harbor. Keep America Strong!”
Jim is survived by six children, nine grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren, including his daughter Marobeth Ruegg; his son Jon Downing and his wife, Cheryl; son Joe Downing; son Don Downing and his wife, Debra; son David Downing and his wife, Crystal; and daughter Joy Riley and her husband, Mark. His son James died of a heart attack in 2013. Morena, his wife of 68 years, died in 2010.
No word on services.