Last week, Speaker Paul Ryan welcomed a very special guest: Jim Downing, the centenarian survivor of Pearl Harbor.
Now 103 years old but sharp as a tack, Jim brought Speaker Ryan back to that fateful day. He was at his home with his wife during the initial wave but immediately raced down to the harbor to help. He jumped aboard the USS Tennessee to help keep the fire from reaching the ammunition on board.
What did he feel that day? In short, Jim said, at first he felt shock, then fear, then shame and regret that America’s leaders could have been duped by the Japanese.
Speaker Ryan thanked Jim for sharing his story. He said it’s so important that Jim continue to tell Americans that story, so that “we don’t read history in a sterile way” and so Americans can fully understand—in a vivid way—the sacrifices made for freedom. Following December 7, 1941, Jim had a long and distinguished career in the navy, including in the Korean War and during the hydrogen bomb test. He currently lives in Colorado, and was accompanied by his representative in the House, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO).
Jim Downing spoke with great hope and appreciation for the younger generation of Americans, who he has noted are especially interested by the history and thankful for their freedoms and the men and women who protect them.