103-Year-Old Colorado Springs Resident and Pearl Harbor Survivor Returns to Hawaii

Dec 7, 2016

Pearl Harbor survivor and Colorado Springs resident Lt. Jim Downing is visiting Hawaii to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the infamous attack. 

In a presentation at Lewis Palmer Middle School before departing for Hawaii, 103-year-old Lt. Jim Downing said the first emotion he experienced as Pearl Harbor was attacked was surprise. He went on, "the next thing that I experienced was fear."

Downing served on board the USS West Virginia, which he says took nine torpedoes. In the midst of the attack, he says he memorized the names on the tags of fallen soldiers while battling flames with a fire hose. He did so in order to notify their families.

Downing wrote a book about his experiences, and visits schools to answer student questions. He says educating youth about history is crucial to preventing war.

"We need to learn the lessons permanently because war is very costly," he says. 

Malinda Martens teaches 8th grade at Lewis Palmer, and organized the visit. She says speaking to eye-witnesses is the best way to learn about history.

"Lt. Downing is a primary source," she says. "We really encourage our kiddos to go to the source if they want to get as close to history as they can." 

Lt. Downing gave a short presentation on the history of the Pearl Harbor attacks, but spent most of his time answering student questions.

He says he's the second oldest Pearl Harbor survivor.

More than 2,400 Americans were killed in the attack.