Second-oldest Pearl Harbor survivor dies at 104

Second-oldest Pearl Harbor survivor dies at 104
(Image: The Navigators)
(Image: The Navigators)
(Image: The Navigators)
(Image: The Navigators)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lt. Jim Downing, the world's second-oldest Pearl Harbor survivor, died Tuesday at 104 years old.

Downing, who died from complications in surgery, joined the U.S. Navy in 1932, and left his home state of Missouri when he was just 19. When Japanese fighter planes attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Downing was the youngest sailor on the USS Virginia.

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.

In 2015, Downing returned to Hawaii for the 74th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack and shared his vivid recollection of the experience.

"I kind of ran the whole gamut of emotions," he said.

He recounted seeing Japanese fighter planes fly over head while his fellow soldiers fell around him. He recalled feelings of shock and dread at the sight of the planes.

After 24 years of serving in the Navy, Downing worked The Navigators, a worldwide Christian ministry.

In 2007, he wrote a book about his experiences and in 2016, he wrote another autobiography about his experiences entitled "The Other Side of Infamy." His second book made him the oldest male author of a new work in the Guinness Book of World Records.

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. He also got the chance to meet Presidents George H.W. Bush, George Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump along the way.

Downing is survived by six children and nine grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his wife, Morena, in 2010 after 69 years of marriage.

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