The USS West Virginia,the Navy, and the Gospel

I’ve always enjoyed reading WWII history books – from the Pacific Theater to the European Theater, I’ve read quite a few.  So I’m glad to be able to review The Other Side of Infamy by Jim Downing, a retired Navy veteran.  The book is a 200 page summary of Downing’s life – from his childhood, to his lengthy Navy career, and beyond.  Downing is a member of the “greatest generation” who has lived a life serving others, traveling for duty’s sake, and, in Downing’s case, being a devoted follower of Jesus.

Downing was born in 1913 near Kansas City, Missouri.  In 1932 he joined the Navy, and the rest is, as they say, history.  He was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked, and he stayed in the Navy until 1956.  Later he served in various capacities with the Navigators, and even today he still has some speaking engagements to promote the Christian faith.

I enjoyed this book because it is well written and covers some fascinating parts of U.S. history, from Pearl Harbor, to the naval warfare in WWII, to post-WWII naval operations.  I don’t want to give too much of a spoiler, but Downing wasn’t a stranger to the U.S. military’s bomb testing runs!  Also, in case you didn’t know it, some of the WWII Navy ships would literally skid sideways around 20 feet when firing a salvo!

One other fascinating part of this book is that it gives a history of the Navigators, which started below deck on the USS West Virginia in the 1930’s.  Downing was at first resistant to the gospel, but after some time, discussion, and of course by God’s grace, he embraced Christ and became a life-long disciple.  After his conversion in the 30’s, Downing and his Christian mates in the Navy started a Bible study on the West Virginia, where the gospel spread like fire.  The group became the Navigators.

If you’re interested in this part of US history, you’ll really like this The Other Side of Infamy.  I do wish it had some more details, but that’s not really a critique – just a wish!  I’ll let my boys read this when I’m done.  It’s a great book that shows how a person can live out his vocation and in it, be a solid Christian.  I’m glad Jim Downing and James Lund did the hard work of putting this story in print!

(NOTE: I received this book from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.)

Shane Lems


One comment on “The USS West Virginia,the Navy, and the Gospel

  1. 861a says:

    Shane, would you read my novel, A Long Healing Come Slowly? I’m a Covenant seminary grad, but also a Marine veteran, Vietnam. Dr. Jim Carmichael. Thanks. I didn’t think I was using my account. You can contact me at or


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