104-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor is honored at West Virginia University


WVU’s Air Force and Army Detachments held a ceremony to honor navy veteran Lieutenant Jim Downing.

Downing is now 104 years old, and one of the oldest survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Many gathered at West Virginia University Friday morning to hear a firsthand recollection of the attack on Pearl Harbor from 104-year-old Lieutenant Jim Downing. 

“On behalf of the army ROTC and the Air Force ROTC, it’s a huge honor that he could come out today and that he’s spending his time with us. Because he’s living history. It’s really awesome he took his time out of his day to come talk to us, and come to our University,” said Jake Mellott, Organizer of the event. 

Many speakers showed their appreciation for his service, including WVU President Gordon Gee.

“What is great is the fact that he was there, he survived, and continued to serve, and he’s still telling the story. This is an issue about stories. We need to constantly remember the stories of heroism that have occurred, because that’s how we celebrate our future,” said President Gordon Gee. 

Downing was presented with an American Flag that flew on the mast of  the U.S.S. West Virginia, which is now installed at Oglebay Plaza of West Virginia University. He was also reunited with the bell that was once upon the ship and rang it eight times. 

“It’s a great privilege that I can just accept it on behalf of all the West Virginians that served aboard the West Virginia. There were hundreds, during the time it was in commission, so I’m just really representing them,” said Downing. 

“Our country is thriving today because of what lieutenant Downing and all of his compatriots did. We need to celebrate those who have made it possible for us to be here today,” said President Gordon Gee. 

A book signing was also held at the campus bookstore, where downing signed copies of his book, titled ‘The Other Side of Infamy.’  Downing leaves one last message for students at the University. 

“Weakness invites aggression, keep America Strong. You’re the leaders, you’re the taxpayers, you’re the voters, you’re the legislators of tomorrow, keep America Strong,” said Downing. 

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