Last Known Activity
Ennis Murry Bankhead was born on August 16, 1920 in Cunningham, Texas to Johnnie B. and Ruby Carmon Phillips Bankhead. The US Census 1930 shows the family in Bonham, Texas, while the US Census 1940 lists the family in Paris, Texas. Bankhead grew up in rural Texas, and worked for J.C. Penny Co. before he joined the service.
He was drafted, and sworn into service in Dallas, Texas on August 22, 1942. His enlistment documents show that he had completed 3 years of high school, and was employed as a sales person. He was assigned to the Army Air Forces, and trained as an aerial gunner. He was then sent to crew training on the B-17 type aircraft.
The crew finished training and deployed to England, arriving there on August 25, 1943. Records reveal the first mission was flown on September 3, 1943. The target was the Renault Company plants in Paris, with secondary targets the Beaumont le Roger Airfield nearby.
A controversy now erupts in the telling of the demise of this aircraft. Records of the 100th Bomb Group state that after receiving heavy flak and possible damage, B-17 # 42-30089, named "Sunny," came upwards unexpectedly and collided with this aircraft. The propellers cut into the tail section and killed the tail gunner in his station.
A later interview with the pilot (plus other sources) tell a different story. These state that the aircraft was hit by flak and lost an engine. A fire erupted, and the aircraft was out of control. The crew bailed out, and all made safe landings. Seven of the crew managed to evade, and return to military control. Two became POWs, and Bankhead was declared dead, killed in the accident.
Other records (including NARA POW records,) show Bankhead was captured, and died of wounds in prison camp as a POW. One even shows he received the POW Medal. A Texas newspaper has an article concerning how Bankhead's mother received a telegram that he was a prisoner, but died.
Somehow, Bankhead's body was recovered, and is buried today in the Epinal American Cemetery in France in Plot B, Row 20, Grave 64. (All sources give this disposition except 100th Bomb Group records which lists him in Grave 84.)
US Census 1930
US Census 1940
Headstone Record Card, for US Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil
Paris News (TX) newspaper, issue November 1, 1943, page 3
SSgt Ennis Murry Bankhead was acting as tail gunner on B-17G # 42-30035, named "Torchy," assigned to the 349th Bomb Squadron.
No Missing Air Crew Report was filed for this incident. However, crew rosters and personnel files show the crew was composed of:
2 Lt Charles B. Winkelman p
2 Lt Ralph D. Smith c-p
2 Lt William H. Booth nav
2 Lt Howard M. Harris bomb
TSgt Thomas E. Combs eng/tt gun
TSgt Jean E. Ray r/o
SSgt Thomas L. Cuccaro btg
SSgt Michael F. Darey wg
SSgt Alfred J. Zeoli wg
SSgt Ennis M. Bankhead
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Sgts Ray and Cuccaro were taken prisoner; seven others evaded; Bankhead was the only fatality.
In the crew photo, Bankhead is in the back row, at right
Service photo source: