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Meet the 103-year-old WW2 hero Ted Cruz ran into on a plane

Conservative Review

Plane rides are funny in that you never know what sort of interesting people you will meet. On a plane Monday, Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, met a real American hero.

Lt. Downing, 103, is the nation’s oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor. He was 28 years old, serving as a gunner’s mate 1st class and postmaster on Dec. 7, 1941, the infamous day of the Japanese sneak attack that brought the U.S. into World War II.

Arriving to the battlefield just minutes after the attack began, Downing heroically climbed aboard his sinking ship – struck by nine torpedoes – and began to help those who were injured and fight fires.

“The first emotion was surprise, and the next thing was fear,” he told the Denver Post in 2013. “When I saw our ships — so many of them — sunk there, I wondered, ‘What else are they going to do to us here?’”

Without being asked, Lt. Downing memorized the names on the dog tags of the dead as he found them. He would later write to as many of the families as he could, informing them of the fates of their loved ones. Families would write Downing back, thanking him for the peace of mind and gesture.

“It was just something you do,” Downing said of his heroism.

Joining the Navy after high school for “financial reasons,” Downing’s career would span more than 24 years. He eventually served as captain of the USS Patapsco tanker during the Korean War.

Lt. James Downing and his wife Morena had seven children together. Morena died in 2010, after 69 years of marriage.

Downing is the author of “The Other Side of Infamy: My Journey through Pearl Harbor and the World of War,” and regularly attends a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony where he resides in Colorado Springs, every Dec. 7.

“Remember Pearl Harbor,” Downing said. “Keep America strong.”

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