DONALD F. BANKER, LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Donald Banker '40

Date of birth: September 23, 1917

Date of death: November 6, 1944

Age: 27

Lucky Bag

From the 1940 Lucky Bag:

Loss

Don was lost on November 5, 1944 in the Phillippines. The Wikipedia entry on VA-194 has some more details.

His wife was listed as next of kin.

Obituary

From History of Class of 1940:

After graduation, Don joined IDAHO. Two years later, on his way to flight training, he married Betty Bennett in Annapolis. It was December, 1943, when he joined VB 19, a divebomber squadron embarked in LEXINGTON.

On September 21, 1944, in the face of strong AA fire, Don sank a Japanese ship. For this, Admiral Mitscher awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross. Exactly one month later, his son, now Donald Banker Heimark, was born.

On 24 October, he took command of VB 19 after the commanding officer had been lost to enemy action. The very next day he led his squadron in an attack against the Japanese Fleet. He personally scored a hit on an enemy battleship in the face of continuous, intense anti-aircraft fire. For this he was awarded a Silver Star.

In a second strike this same day, Don dove boldly through intense AA fire and scored a direct hit on a large Japanese carrier that led to its loss. For this act of skill and bravery, he received his first Navy Cross.

On November 5, the last day of his short life, Don led his flight of aircraft in offensive action against Japanese naval forces in Manila Harbor. Besides directing the efforts of his accompanying squadronmates to gain maximum striking power, Don dove through withering AA fire to a perilously low altitude before releasing his bombs for a direct hit that destroyed an enemy heavy cruiser. As Don pulled out of his dive, his plane was shot down and he was lost. For his superb airmanship, indomitable fighting spirit and extreme courage in the face of tremendous odds, Don was awarded a second Navy Cross and a Purple Heart.

In a brief seven-week period, Donald Banker became one of the most highly decorated members of '40.

Today, through his son Donald Banker, and his grandchildren, Emory Banker and Skyler Banker, our classmate Don lives on. Jake Heimark

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander [then Lieutenant] Donald Francis Banker (NSN: 0-85095), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Scout Dive Bomber and Flight Leader in Bombing Squadron NINETEEN (VB-19) attached to the U.S.S. LEXINGTON (CV-16), while assigned to strike major Japanese Fleet Units on 25 October 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, in the Philippine Islands. Skillfully directing his group in a strike against a large Japanese aircraft carrier and other surface units, Lieutenant Commander Banker boldly dived through the intense barrage of enemy anti-aircraft fire and aerial opposition and expertly maneuvered his planes at low altitude to score a direct hit on a carrier, contributing materially to her ultimate sinking. By his brilliant airmanship, indomitable courage and inspiring leadership, Lieutenant Commander Banker was instrumental in inflicting extensive damage upon the Japanese Fleet during the battle. His dauntless fighting spirit and unswerving devotion to duty throughout a period of decisive activity reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander 1st Carrier Task Force Pacific: Serial 0765 (October 30, 1944)
Action Date: 25-Oct-44
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Company: Bombing Squadron 19 (VB-19)
Division: U.S.S. Lexington (CV-16)

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander Donald Francis Banker (NSN: 0-85095), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Bomber and Squadron Commander in Bombing Squadron NINETEEN (VB-19), attached to the U.S.S. LEXINGTON (CV-16), during offensive air operations against enemy Japanese forces in Manila Harbor, Philippine Islands, on 5 November 1944. Lieutenant Commander Banker led his flight in a vigorous, intensive attack against the Japanese fleet units. In bold defiance of the enemy's fierce aerial opposition, he plunged through withering anti-aircraft fire to press home his attack. Accurately releasing his bomb load at perilously low altitude, he succeeded in scoring a direct hit on an enemy heavy cruiser which contributed materially to her destruction before his plane was shot down as he pulled out of his dive. Lieutenant Commander Banker's superb airmanship, indomitable fighting spirit and extreme courage in the face of tremendous odds during this and numerous other brilliantly executed strikes were essential factors in the extensive and costly damage inflicted on hostile shipping, shore installations and aircraft in the Pacific War Area. The conduct of Lieutenant Commander Banker throughout these actions reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 341 (August 1945)
Action Date: 5-Nov-44
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Company: Bombing Squadron 19 (VB-19)
Division: U.S.S. Lexington (CV-16)

Silver Star

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander [then Lieutenant] Donald Francis Banker (NSN: 0-85095), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Scout Dive Bomber and Flight Leader in Bombing Squadron NINETEEN (VB-19) attached to the U.S.S. LEXINGTON (CV-16), while assigned to strike major Japanese Fleet Units on 25 October 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, in the Philippine Islands. Skillfully directing his group in a strike against a large Japanese aircraft carrier and other surface units, Lieutenant Commander Banker boldly dived through the intense barrage of enemy anti-aircraft fire and aerial opposition and expertly maneuvered his planes at low altitude to score a direct hit on a carrier, contributing materially to her ultimate sinking. By his brilliant airmanship, indomitable courage and inspiring leadership, Lieutenant Commander Banker was instrumental in inflicting extensive damage upon the Japanese Fleet during the battle. His dauntless fighting spirit and unswerving devotion to duty throughout a period of decisive activity reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander 1st Carrier Task Force Pacific: Serial 0765 (October 30, 1944)
Action Date: 25-Oct-44
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Company: Bombing Squadron 19 (VB-19)
Division: U.S.S. Lexington (CV-16)

Distinguished Flying Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Lieutenant Donald Francis Banker (NSN: 0-85095), United States Navy, for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight against enemy forces in the Philippine Islands on 21 September 1944. While executing one of the finest aerial attacks upon shipping in this area, and within a few miles of one of the enemy's greatest concentrations of air power, he executed a daring dive bombing attack in the face of anti-aircraft fire and obtained a direct hit upon an enemy ship, which resulted in the immediate sinking of same. His courage and skill were at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander, 1st Carrier Task Force, Serial 0724 (October 8, 1944)
Action Date: September 21, 1944
Rank: Lieutenant
Company: Bombing Squadron 19 (VB-19)
Division: U.S.S. Lexington (CV-16)


Class of 1940

Donald is one of 89 members of the Class of 1940 in Memorial Hall.