SHANKS, ROBERT CORNELIUS, JR., Captain, # 0-1699413, USAAF

 

Robert C. Shanks Jr. was born 25 December 1919 in Bells, Grayson Co., Texas, to Dr. Robert C. Shanks (1883-1943) and Neva Lucille (Beaver) Shanks 1893-1983). Siblings included Sammie L. (Shanks) Pickerrell (1912-1995), and Harvey Robertson Shanks (1915-1978). He attended the North Texas Agricultural College, Arlington, Texas.

 

He enlisted in the USAAF on 26 May 1942. After enlisting in the USAAF, he received flight instruction through advanced schools and earned his commission and pilot wings. He was assigned and trained to fly the B-29 Superfortress. He was sent overseas to India. On 14 December 1944, a B-29 40BW, # 42-24574, assigned to 20th Air Force, 40th Bomb Group, 45th Bomb Squadron, departed the airfield at Chakulia, India, on a bombing mission at 20,000’, over Rangoon railway yards, Burma, and Bangkok, Siam (Thailand). It crashed about 70 to 80 miles west of Rangoon. Its last known location was near 16º 46’ North & 94º 46’ East. According to 1stLt Etherington, the crew was able to bail out, were captured by enemy Burmese and turned over to the Japanese enemy, who imprisoned them in the Rangoon Cantonment (old British Prison). The pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, engineer, and radio operator bailed out through the nosewheel well. The waist gunners, senior gunner, tail gunner, and radar operator bailed out through the rear door. The co-pilot sprained an ankle upon landing. The rest were uninjured by the jump. Therington, Benedict, Fletcher, Majors, Oglesby, Pisterzi, Basche, and Cochran were marched through the jungle by the enemy for 65 miles when the Japanese abandoned them in a Burmese village about 10 miles NW of Pegu, Burma. By 29 April 1945, they were liberated by the British Army. Shanks, Lentz and Sommers were imprisoned in the Rangoon Cantonment. Upon liberation, they were taken to the 142nd General Hospital, Calcutta, India. He was captured by the Japanese and a POW in the Rangoon prison (former British prison) until about 11 May 1945, when he was reported to have been liberated. He was released on 4 January 1946 to return home. He died on 7 December 2001 and is buried in the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, Dallas, Texas (Sec. 104, Grave 493).

 

His brother, Harvey R. Shanks, born 12 September 1915, served in the USAAF, First Lieutenant, from 11 January 1942 to 21 September 1945. A pilot, he flew in the invasion of Normandy and Holland. He was located at airfields in England, France, Belgium and Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, seven battle stars and received a USAAF-R commission upon active duty separation. He died in 1978 and is buried in the Shannon Rose Memorial Park, Fort Worth, Texas.

Robert C. Shanks