Army Badge
  • Name: James "Bob" Robert Downing Jr.
  • Location of Birth: Taconite, Minnesota
  • Date of Birth: September 1, 1918
  • Date of Death: November 19, 1987
  • Parents: James R. Downing, Sr. & Florence (O'Brien) Downing
  • High School and Class: 1936 Greenway High School, Coleraine, Minnesota
  • College: Itasca Junior College, Coleraine, Minnesota
    1942 St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota
  • Highest Rank: S SGT (Staff Sergeant)
  • Branch: Army
  • Other Branch:
  • Date Sworn In: April 10, 1942
  • Place Sworn In: Fort Snelling, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Date of Discharge: September 25, 1945
  • Place of Discharge:
  • Military Awards:
    Purple Heart

  • Military Highlights:
    WW II Draft Registration Cards – 10/16/1940 – 03/31/1947
    State: Minnesota
    Name: James Robert Downing
    Race: White
    Age: 22
    Birth Date: September 1, 1918
    Birth Place: Taconite, Minnesota, USA
    Residence Place: Taconite, Itasca, Minnesota, USA
    Registration Date: October 16, 1940
    Employer: Student, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Rice, Minnesota
    Weight: 135
    Height: 5-6
    Complexion: Dark
    Eye Color: Hazel
    Hair Color: Black
    Next of Kin: Thomas Joseph O'Brien, uncle, Taconite, Itasca, Minnesota

    WW II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
    Name: James R. Downing
    Birth Year: 1918
    Race: White, citizen
    Nativity tate or country: Minnesota
    State of Residence: Minnesota
    County or City: Itasca
    Enlistment Date: April 10, 1942
    Enlistment State: Minnesota
    Enlistment City: Fort Snelling
    Branch: Branch immaterial, warrant officers, USA
    Branch Code: Branch immaterial, warrant officers, USA
    Grade: Private
    Grade Code: Private
    Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
    Component: Army of the United States – includes the following: Voluntary enlistments effective December 8, 1941 and thereafter; One year enlistments of National Guardsman whose State enlistment expires while in the Federal Service; Officers appointed in the Army of
    Source: Civil Life
    Education: 4 years college
    Civil Occupation: Semiskilled miners, mining-machine operators
    Marital status: Single, without dependents
    Height: 66
    Weight: 135

    Newspaper article: Itasca Iron News, Coleraine, Minnesota – April 1, 1943 – “BOB DOWNING IN PARA INFANTRY – Pfc. Bob Downing writes from Fort Bragg, N.C. “Just a few lines to thank you for the card (from Service Man’s Club). There is no news like home town news. I didn’t realize it though until I got in the army. Some people say it takes nerve to do our job; others say we must be crazy. (He refers to Para Inf.) Well, whatever it is, it’s the most thrilling and exciting work a person can do, as far as I am concerned. It isn’t everyone who will put their life into the hands of 444 pairs of women’s silk hose. I still wouldn’t trade for anything else but a pursuit pilot’s job. Will you convey my thanks of the Service Man’s Club for their best wishes and I send my best wishes to them.”

    Newspaper article: 1944 – A news report over the Hibbing radio Tuesday noon told how a group of paratroopers captured Ste. Mere Eglise three hours before the allied landing forces touched the beach on D-day. Sgt. Bob Downing is among those who will receive a citation for the daring assault. When the unit finished its mission, it had destroyed eight tanks, some cannon and taken 364 prisoners.

    Newspaper article: Bovey Press, Bovey, Minnesota – November 24, 1944 – “PARATROOPER IN ACTION - With U.S. Airborne Forces in Holland – Sergeant James R. Downing, a paratrooper of the veteran paratrooper infantry which has seen service in the Sicilian, Italian, and Normandy Invasions, and has been awarded the presidential citation, jumped in Holland near the city of Niemegan on the German border. Shortly after the landing was successfully carried out and the objective, the town of Groesbeek taken, Sgt. Downing of Taconite, and a group of men were sent to the Reich Wald, across the German threshold, on a reconnoitering expedition. During their reconnaissance 65 Nazis were seen entering a wooded area directly to the front of the patrol. Quickly deploying his patrol, Sgt. Downing placed the 60 mm. mortar in action along with the automatic rifle he carried and laid down so much fire power on the surprised Supermen that 40 were killed while the other 15 retreated and surrendered to the company nearest the scene of action along with their captain. The Nazi officer said that the “barrage” was too much for any man to stand.”

  • Wars Involved:
    World War II

  • MIA / POW:

  • Civilian Life:
    Bob Downing was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in Africa and Europe during WW II. He was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. Following his discharge from the Army, he settled in the Grand Rapids area and married Eleanor Costello in 1946. He worked for Northprint Company of Grand Rapids for eighteen years, retiring in 1982. He was very active in community as well as the Amateur Hockey Association in Grand Rapids and for 25 years he played “Captain Dan” in the Showboat Productions.

    Bob Downing died in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Coleraine, Minnesota (Block 59). He is survived by his wife, Eleanor; daughters, Mary and Catherine Downing; sons, Steven, Patrick, William, Thomas, John, and Robert; seven grandchildren; and a brother James.

  • Tribal Affiliation(s):