Centenarian Lieutenant Downing Makes an Appearance at Fourth of July Parade

Lieutenant Jim Downing

There aren't many World War II veterans around these days, let alone survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack. However, Lieutenant Jim Downing recently proved that he is fit as a fiddle and in excellent condition. At 103 years young, Downing happens to be the second oldest survivor from Pearl Harbor.

Appearing at the Coronado Fourth of July parade, the veteran was more than happy to wave at the onlookers who paid homage to his bravery. Indeed, his story is even more dramatic than most. When the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor, he happened to be in the married quarters. However, he made it his business to get back to his ship, which was the U.S.S. West Virginia. Hit with a whopping nine torpedoes, it quickly became obvious that the ship was in bad condition. When it caught fire, Downing immediately went into action mode, grabbing a hose to put out fires. After all, he was aware of the extraordinary amount of explosives on the ship. If the fires were permitted to get out of control, then the situation would become even more lethal.

In the aftermath of the attack, Downing had to attend to some of the more grim tasks of battle. Examining dog tags of the deceased and visiting service members who had been injured, he was able to help worried families receive answers faster than they would have normally. He even took down messages for men he feared would not make it through the night; this way, their families would know what their final thoughts were. In the years since the war, Downing has penned a book and given speeches about his wartime experience.

Although the word hero is thrown around very often these days, there are some rare people for whom the title truly fits; Lieutenant Downing is one of them.