World War II, Korean War veteran in Georgia remembers his shipmates on Memorial Day

BANKS COUNTY, Ga. — Henry Banks, 95, will always remember being 18. At the age when most kids graduate from high school and go off to college, Banks was in the South Pacific with a job to do.

“The planes exploded. We had bombs on them. We were burning from one end to the other,” Banks said.

He was a sailor aboard the USS Bunker Hill. On May 11, 1945, the aircraft carrier took part in the Battle of Okinawa.

“The officer got us on the deck, and he says, ‘Men, we’re fighting a different enemy. They’re called Kamikazes. The planes crash into the ship. If we don’t knock them down before they get to us, they’ll wreck our ship.’ That’s what we were facing,” Banks said.

Henry’s son Ken has heard the story many times. He’s a veteran himself of the Vietnam War.


“He saved the world. His generation. No doubt about that.”

Two suicide planes slammed into the Bunker Hill. Nearly 400 sailors and airmen were killed.

Banks told Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen that he jumped off the ship from the burning flight deck. He was in the water nearly four hours before a Navy destroyer picked him up.

Every Memorial Day, Banks remembers being 18 -- he and his friends, all around the same age, with a job to do.

“They were good, good people. It broke my heart that they were gone,” Banks said.

Banks also served in the Korean War and years later was a magistrate judge.