It's been 74 years, but Jim Downing remembers the attack on Pearl Harbor as if it were just last week.
Downing, who is 102, is back in Hawaii for the anniversary of the attack.
“When I think about what happened here on December 7, that's a sad memory,” said Downing, the second-oldest Pearl Harbor survivor.
On that day, fire hose in hand, he saw Japanese fighter planes flying straight overhead and his fellow comrades falling around him. He still remembers the overwhelming feelings of surprise and fear at the sight of the planes.
“I kind of ran the whole gamut of emotions,” he said.
Downing joined the U.S. Navy in 1932, leaving his small hometown, Oak Grove, Mo., at the age of 19. He was then assigned to the USS West Virginia as a gunner’s mate first class and a postmaster. From 1952 to 1955, Downing went on to serve as the commanding officer of the USS Patapsco during the Korean War. During that time he was exposed to 20,000 times the maximum recommended lifetime dosage of radiation from the “H” bomb testing in Bikini Atoll.
After 24 years of serving in the Navy, Downing decided to work with The Navigators, a worldwide Christian ministry. He had seven children with his late wife, Morena, who he had been married to for 68 years.
Downing was entered into the Congressional Records for his 100th birthday in 2013 and was a guest at the State of the Union in 2015.
Even after all these years, the feeling of patriotism still resonates with him. Downing said that he feels that same wave of patriotism going across the country as well. To those who feel the same, he says:
"Weakness invites aggression. Remember Pearl Harbor. Keep America strong."