By: Jim Downing and James Lund
Each of us is a character in the stories shared amongst friends and families. We are part of the story of our family, of our nation’s history, and of God’s work in this world. We love to share these stories since they bookmark the stages in an unfolding story yet to be complete. Each day these stories are told, and each day some are forgotten to the past. The stories that stick out, the ones that remain with us, are the accounts of ordinary people who lived during extraordinary times. As a result, Jim Downing’s story and legacy will be remembered longer than most.
As a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor and an early member of The Navigators ministry, Jim recounts his life and military career in “The Other Side of Infamy: My Journey Through Pearl Harbor and the World of War.” As with others who grew up during his time, the Second World War called many men from humble towns and cast them on a worldwide theatre of war and serious decisions. They faced decisions of life and death, and decisions to remain steadfast during uncertain times.
There are many episodes in Jim’s life that stand out. Not only did he live through the attack on Pearl Harbor, he went on to defend his country during the remainder of the war. He became the captain of the tanker USS Patapsco, and shares in vivid detail about a few unexpected adventures along the Aleutian Islands. Late in the war, his crew sailed near the Bikini Atoll during an undisclosed atomic bomb test; Jim had deal with the ramifications that his crew may have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation during an exercise that the United States government was not claiming public involvement. Though an imperfect man, he handled these situations and others with wisdom, humility, and reliance on his Heavenly Father.
The most important story we are a part of is being written by God. It is a story of redemption. God redeemed Jim Downing, and used his life to demonstrate the love of God to others. Though we are undeserving, God makes redemption available to each of us. And though it may be hard to understand, He has redeemed many unlikely characters in history, including Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander that led the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is difficult for many of us to accept that a man who was involved in killing so many can become a Christian. Jim shares candidly about the tension to forgive and to embrace an enemy who has become a brother in Christ while remembering his friends who lost their lives.
Jim’s story has had many difficult seasons; while it was certainly not easy for him to live out some of these events, he has shown courage by sharing his story with us. At the time of writing the book, Jim was 103 years old and his story was still not complete. After serving a career in the military and working full time for the Navigators in semi-retirement, he continues to meet people and speak to groups. He enjoyed sixty-eighty years of marriage with his wife Morena before she passed on. And even though it seems that so many things in his life are now in the past, I was struck by his words, “The truth is that these last few years have been the best of my life. I have so much fun that I don’t look back at yesterday or forward to tomorrow. I live one day at a time.”
Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for a copy of this book for review