On 7 December 7 1941, the United States experienced one of its most defining moments in history: the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

A day of sadness, fear, and chaos – that early Sunday morning marked the unforgettable time that the Japanese attacked the Hawaiian naval base, forcing America to enter World War II. 

In total, 2,403 men and women were killed during the surprise attack, with thousands more left to recover from terrible injuries and acute burns. 

Though many were sadly unable to recount their experience from that fateful incident, Naval Lieutenant Jim Downing currently lives on to tell the tale. 

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The 104-year-old veteran, who has now become the world’s Oldest male author, has written his latest work on his firsthand experience of the day. 

"My new bride, Morena, and I were sitting down at breakfast when we heard explosions. I lived about 15 minutes away from the ship. Turned on the radio and the announcer said ‘we had been advised by naval intelligence that the Island of Oahu is under enemy attack. The enemy has not been identified'. A few minutes later he came back on and said 'the enemy has been identified as Japan'."

Upon hearing those words, Jim sat frozen at the table; stunned by the news that had rung out from the local station.

For the last ten years the United States Navy had been the only home Jim had known - and now it was up in smoke. 

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After the Great Depression had hit in the early 1930s, most American families were struggling to survive the financial downturn; Jim who was determined to find a way out of the deficit, leaving his home in Montana seeking an opportunity to make a living. 

"During that time, there was really no way out or to make money except enlisting. I had a friend at that time who was in the Navy and was making $90 a month. That was a lot of money then."

Without much choice Jim opted to serve his country, but quickly grew accustomed to the naval culture and lifestyle. 

He was stationed aboard the USS West Virginia, where he worked his way up the ranks to become a Gunners Mate 1st class and postmaster worker.

"Everybody on a ship has two duties. One is a military duty and the other was a housekeeping duty. My military was as a gunner and my housekeeping duty was a post master. I would get up, dress, shower and get ready for the day. My workday began at 8am. We had a crew of about 1500 on the West Virginia, so I would go straight to work as the postmaster. I sold stamps, distributed mail, prepare money orders and more. I also kept the mail in order." 

Though the role as the ship’s mailman seemed less militant than his duties as a Naval gunman, it was not by any means less significant. 

By wandering the ship door-to-door, face-to-face, Jim got to know his fellow combatants well; resulting in many friendships, memories, and an irreplaceable sense of familiarity in his daily work. 

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So on the morning of 7 December, when Jim heard that the faces he had come to know were now being besieged, he didn’t think twice before running into the line of fire. 

"A car full of us went down to the ship. My ship had taken nine torpedoes and was sinking and on fire."

Jim and his fellow naval officers had arrived to Pearl Harbor naval base in sheer uproar. 

"The first Japanese plane I saw was flying low and slow. His gunner opened fire on me. The plane didn’t back far enough and the bullets went over my head and dug a trench behind me. I could almost see the color of his eyes, he was so close."

Barely cheating death, Jim quickly recovered from a near fatal confrontation with a Japanese fighter pilot to assist in the battle. 

Not only were countless boats dipping quickly into the water, which was filled with casualties, debris, and provisions, but several Japanese fighter planes circled closely overhead – threatening to increase the damage that had already been done to the Pearl Harbor base. 

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Fearlessly, Jim decided to take matters into his own hands once throwing himself aboard the USS West Virginia. 

"I couldn’t reach my ship, so I went aboard the USS Tennessee and slid down its gun barrel to land on my ship, the USS West Virginia." 

His fellow men had split up to help where they could, but given that a majority of ships were already half underwater, the loss of power meant that guns aboard were no longer working. 

But the most prominent threats posed to the young lieutenant were the massive flames which engulfed the vessel. 

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While under attack Jim tried to act fast to prevent the USS West Virginia from being damaged further and exploding, as fighter plane bullets and the unruly fire threatened to hit the ship’s weaponry. 

“I borrowed a fire hose from the ship we were tied up to and tried to keep the fire away from live ammunition. But while I was doing that I saw bodies lying around. A thought that ran through my mind at the time was ‘their parents will never know exactly what happened to them'. 

"Each one of us had fireproof ID tags; so I went around looking at the tags, identifying the sailors, and memorizing their name, so I could write a letter to their parents to let them know what happened to their son."

For two terrifying hours, Jim went around memorizing names for all of his fallen men while holding the water hose at impending flames. 

Even though Jim was performing a number of heroic acts to ensure the ship did not crumble like the USS Arizona, which received the worst of the attack that day, his main concern was traced back to his duties as a postmaster: delivering a sense of news and resolve to the people who needed it most. 

That mentality continued later that day as the flames had settled and the Japanese retreated back to their home territory. 

"I went to the hospital to visit a friend who had been burned. I saw about 65 sailors who were badly burned and blinded. So I found a notebook and went down the line and said to each one 'if you give me your parents address and dictate a short paragraph I’ll see that they get it'. I was surprised about the attitudes of the sailors. They were very cheerful and told their parents ‘don’t worry about me. I’ll be OK and be home for Christmas'. No complaining, no criticism. Most of the sailors died that night, but I made sure their dying words were sent home."

Jim gave many families the ultimate gift of closure, at a time in history where many deaths were reported without any cause or explanation. 

He received a few letters back from the soldier’s kin he had written to, thanking him for his sacrifice. 

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Jim lost 35 of his close friends from the attack on Pearl Harbor, unfortunately witnessing some of their horrific deaths. 

"I will never forget the surprise and damage the Japanese did to our ships. To see my home sinking and burning; it’s an image in my mind that I’ll never forget. Watching all the ships being destroyed and the lives lost."

As a result, he went on to fight in the Korean War, the Cold War, and even became involved with initial testing of the hydrogen bomb, eager to serve his country and brave the attacks of foreign nations as he did on Hawaiian shores. 

But despite years of service and memories made after his survival of Pearl Harbor, he never did forget that day, and decided to record his document his memories from that experience to share with his children. 

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After one publisher picked up his manuscript in 2015, Jim Downing who displayed the epitome of valor on 7 December 1941, had officially become the world’s oldest author at the age of 102 years and 176 days – his final draft titled 'The Other Side of Infamy'. 

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On becoming a record holder, among other respected titles, Jim said: 

"I can’t get use to it. It’s amazing. I never knew I’d be in Guinness World Records. I have my certificate framed and whenever or wherever I speak I take it with me to show it off. The kids LOVE it!"

After surviving the siege of Pearl Harbor, Jim lived a long life, becoming a respected war hero. 

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Eager to share his memories so that America’s youth will learn and keep the country strong. 

"I felt that I have a story that’s worth telling. So being an author lead me to spread the story better than any other way. It’s about sharing the history and keeping the story alive that impacts others."