February 15, 2018
We are saddened to share the news that Lt James “Jim” Downing, the world’s 2nd oldest Pearl Harbor survivor, passed away peacefully at his home in Colorado Springs this afternoon. He was 104 years old.
Jim entered the Navy at the age of 19 and served on the USS West Virginia during the attack on Pearl Harbor. While under enemy attack he memorized the names of the fallen and wrote home to their parents letting them know their sons died as heroes. After the attack he took down the last words of wounded sailors and sent them home to their parents.
Jim’s Naval career culminated with him becoming the commanding officer of the USS Patapsco from 1952 until 1955. Jim served in the navy for 24 years before retiring to Colorado Springs, CO.
Lt. James Downing speaking at the
75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
In 2016 Jim wrote about his Pearl Harbor experience in “The Other Side of Infamy.” The publication entered Jim into the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Oldest Male Author.
Although Jim was a hero to many, he always said those that didn’t make it home were the true heroes.
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.
In Jim’s own words “Remember Pearl Harbor. Keep America Strong!
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