Pearl Harbor Survivor Still Making Disciples

As the second oldest known Pearl Harbor survivor, 104-year-old Jim Downing delights audiences both large and small with stories about his experiences during World War II. He speaks regularly to military personnel, students, and the media.

Jim Downing - Pearl Harbor Survivor Still Making Disciples
Photo of USS West Virginia Gospel Team 1937 Jim Downing center back

He was a sailor on the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. He rushed to Pearl Harbor, saying goodbye to Morena, his wife of less than six months, not knowing if he would see her again this side of heaven. Jim’s experience at Pearl Harbor changed his spiritual life permanently. For the next six months he held Bible studies every night in an underground air raid shelter. While he does share stories about Pearl Harbor with all those who are interested, Jim also shares a much more important story—his testimony of faith!

Jim Downing - Pearl Harbor Survivor Still Making Disciples
USS West Virginia

Jim Downing’s journey with Jesus has stretched over more than eight decades, starting in 1935 when fellow sailors talked to Jim about the difference Jesus made in their lives. They introduced him to the founder of The Navigators, Dawson Trotman, and Jim eventually became Navigator #6, the sixth person Dawson discipled as part of his new ministry. Even from the start, as these men grew in faith in Jesus, they developed a vision to share Christ and disciple their fellow shipmates.

While Jim “retired” from his staff work with The Navigators many years ago, he isn’t done sharing about Jesus with those he meets in person, through media, or his latest book (The Other Side of Infamy). In fact, Jim has a goal of sharing the gospel with 2 million people! Such a goal illustrates his zeal for Christ, and making the most of each day that God grants him. Jim often prays Ephesians 3:20, asking God to do exceedingly, abundantly all that he could ask or imagine. For those of us who are younger than Jim, his example of commitment to sharing the Good News is inspiring!

Jim Downing - Pearl Harbor Survivor Still Making Disciples
Jim Downing with off duty sailors in San Diego CA


  1. Hey Mike, are you the same Mike Moser who was on the Nav team with me at Miramar around 1971 with Myron Sahlberg and Willie Montague? Just wondering. Clair Lucas.

  2. I remember Jim, he spoke to a group of us who were living with Cecil and Thelma Davidson in San Diego. He is a real encouragement.

  3. Jim Downing is such a devout and dedicated man. That’s wild how Pearl Harbor has completely altered his path in life. I think those that have been apart of warfare have achieved a different emotional intelligence than the rest of us. I hope Jim meets his goal and reaches out to 2 million!

  4. My father was saved in the Navigators while on his ship in Korean war. I am so thankful for the Christian influence he had on his family.

  5. Jim is a true man of God. He is one of my heroes. He has been able to keep the main thing the main thing all these years. Praise God for Jim Downing!

  6. Jim, So grateful for you stop in Kansas City to speak to all of our Navigator’s Bible Study Men and Friends. Your words of faith and forgiveness will be forever remembered by all of those you spoke to. Thanks for the time you took for us and you are most welcome back anytime!!
    Rosco Halsey (not related to Admiral “Bull” Halsey)

  7. Jim I studied with Cecil Davidson in the early 80’s do you remember him?? He is mentioned in Dawson Trotmans book DAWS several times also master radio man and in Pearl Harbor

  8. What an amazing testimony, Jim. You story is so motivating to the rest of us. God bless you and your family.

  9. The LORD used Leroy Eims, now with The LORD, at a Navigator Conference, on February 5, 1966, while I was in the Navy, to challenge us, whether we had assurance of eternal life. I didn’t, so I made sure that day!

  10. Meeting Mr. Downing earlier this has been a highlight in my life. To see his zeal and energy for the Lord at age 104 left me feeling ashamed of complaining about anything. He is a living saint and a lesson to me in that every day is a testimony to the Lord, good or bad. I definitely have been challenged to work harder at making each day a better testimony.

  11. So excited to hear Jim is still with us at 104. My husband, Ed Clark, so appreciated and benefitted from Jim’s simple and clear presentation of the Word any chance he had the opportunity either in person or through messages or books. Many times I heard Ed quoting and rehearsing many truths he gleaned for Jim’s messages, especially about meditating on the Word. Ed and I both were at the Glen 1968-70 and frequently heard Jim in the Great Hall. I had the privilege of helping Morena care for Joy now and then when they were gone and loved being a part of their family in this way – a precious, godly family that touched MY life as well. What a trophy he and Morena are/have been among God’s Generals.

  12. Jim’s story is inspiring. It has challenged me for many years. I was involved with the Navs in the 60s and early 70s. My only suggestion is, when you show that picture of the sailors above, put an arrow pointing at Jim. I don’t know which one he is. The one I comment I remember Jim giving us sailors one time in the 60s was, “it’s impossible for us to exhaust the truths of God’s Word by our study if it,… but you better be trying.” – Mike

  13. Dear Jim, Glory to God for your life. My uncle, Thomas Glenn Slough, was on the West Virginia at Pearl Harbor. My dad told me the story of his survival at Pearl Harbor, but he was later killed on the USS San Francisco at Guadacanal in November 1942. Do you have any remembrance of Thomas, and if he was part of the Bible Studies in the aftermath of December 7, 1941?

    Thank you for a faithful life,
    Wes Slough

    ps. I have long been connected to Navigator methods of discipling.

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