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Donald D Shanks - www.OurWarHeroes.org

Donald D Shanks

Sedona, Arizona

June 29, 2015

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
95 Army Air Corps  

27th Bombardment Group

He was awarded the American Defense Service Medal, European African Middle Eastern Service Medal with 4 Bronze Stars, Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart, and Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters. 

Donald D Shanks - www.OurWarHeroes.org Donald D Shanks - www.OurWarHeroes.org

 Obituary: Donald D. Shanks
Donald D. Shanks, a resident of Sedona, AZ, was born on January 24, 1920 in Fox, Arkansas. 

After 95 years of living an active and inspiring life, he passed away on June 29, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. He spent most of his early years growing up near Flagstaff where his father was the supervisor for the Doney Park Ranger District of the US Forest Service. 

He attended school in Flagstaff and graduated from Flagstaff High School in 1938. He held a variety of jobs including playing music in various clubs, trapping for sheep camps and working for the Forest Service. 

He learned to be a welder and was working as a welder in the Bremmer Shipyards when World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and flew many missions in Italy, Africa, and France as a flight maintenance gunner on the A-20 Attack Bomber in the 27th Bombardment Group. 

At some point, the Army discovered that he had a flair for languages and sent him forward to learn the language and make contacts where the unit was planning to go. 

He was awarded the American Defense Service Medal, European African Middle Eastern Service Medal with 4 Bronze Stars, Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart, and Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters. 

After returning from Europe, he married his beloved Anna Marie Reinhart in Buffalo, NY. He was on his way to the Pacific when the war ended. He returned to Buffalo and used his GI Bill benefits to learn tool and die making. When his second child was born with respiratory problems, he and the family moved back to Flagstaff. 

He went to work for the Flagstaff Police Department and held various part time jobs with the Forest Service. He also served as a volunteer fireman. Eventually, he was offered a position as instrument maker at Lowell Observatory where he worked until his retirement in 1988. Among his many jobs there, he built their first photometer and at the time of his retirement, had built more photometers than anyone else in the world. He was always amazed at the experiences he had and the amount of history he lived through. 

Don was a family man who said he didn't need much money because he had a million dollars' worth of wife and kids to come home to. As a family, the Shanks' built their own garage and workshop, loved to spend time in the forests, took many hunting, fishing and camping trips, learned to use guns safely, and were active in Cub Scouts. Don was also an outstanding outdoor cook who was often invited on hunting trips so he could be the cook. 

After his retirement, he spent most of his years caring for his ailing wife and son. In 2005, he moved to Sedona where he spent his remaining years.

Donald is survived by his daughter Janet (William) Fish, sons Gerald (Merry Carol) and Leonard (Janice), grandchildren Gerry (Lisa) Shanks, Donna (Dennis) Betz, Kristie (Chris) Peruch, Donnie (Terra) Shanks, Scott Shanks, William (Jennifer) Fish, and 8 great grandchildren including his namesake born 2 weeks ago. He is also survived by his sister Mina Thompson and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife Anna Marie, son Daniel, parents Lewis Leonard and Jean (Coffin) Shanks, and a sister Avis Bennett.

A Memorial Mass will be held at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 700 Bill Grey Rd., Cottonwood, AZ on July 10 at 10 a.m. with inurnment to follow in All Souls Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Wounded Warrior project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675.

An online guestbook is available to sign at www.westcottfuneralhome.com

Information provided by survivors.

Donald D Shanks - www.OurWarHeroes.org

Don Shanks Key To Success
By Cottonwood Journal Extra staff
Cottonwood Journal Extra of Cottonwood, Arizona

It was 1953 when Don Shanks of Sedona went to work for Lowell Observatory, 16 years before the United States accomplished its goal of landing astronauts on the moon.

By the time he retired in 1988, the Apollo Mission counted six lunar landings among its most celebrated accomplishments and NASA's Space Shuttle was blasting off on its 27th mission.

Shanks' path to the observatory was anything but a straight line.

Raised at the Dead Man Ranger Station 25 miles north of Flagstaff, by the time he was 12 he was working summers as a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service and winters as a trapper for the sheep runners.

As a teenager he was handy with a stick of dynamite and knew too how to fix the telephone lines that ran to the fire towers.

When he was 18, the chatter about war had became constant and scouts were sent out sniffing for young men with mechanical ability to work in factories owned by Lockheed and Boeing.

By chance, Shanks was just finishing a welding course and promptly offered a job at Lockheed in California.

The move west was short-lived.

Just as he was settling into his new career, the plant went on strike.

That sort of behavior didn't appeal to him and he headed home to Flagstaff before moving northwest to Bremerton, Wash., where he put his welding skills to use on Liberty ships.

When he learned the draft board was looking for him, he trotted right down to the enlistment office in Seattle, signing up for pilot training in the U.S. Army Air Corps which preceded the U.S. Air Force.

His basic training took place in St. Louis, Mo., followed by aircraft mechanics school at Chanute Field in Illinois and then engineer training at Allison Engine Company in Buffalo.

Now a mechanic and crew chief, Shanks next went to Tampa where he established two air fields.

Applying to become a cadet and a flying sergeant, he was sent to preflight at San Antonio, Texas, then on to Vernon, Texas.

It was in El Paso, Texas, that he said he washed out of pilot training, sent instead as a gunnery instructor to Fort Myers.

This assignment was not to his liking and when he complained to one of his fellow cadets, the pilot immediately asked Shanks to be his flight engineer.

From then on, the pair flew together in an A-20 Havoc attack bomber in the 47th Bombardment Group, flying support for the British Eighth Army in its campaign against Rommel.

Shanks did not emerge unscathed from his service, awarded a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained in battle over Italy as well as unit citations with two oak clusters and an air medal with three bronze stars.

Once the war was over, he moved back to Arizona, working for the Flagstaff Police Department at night and running a small machine shop out of his garage during the day.

When a Lowell employee mentioned to a fellow police officer that the observatory was in desperate need of a machinist to build a little telescope "right quick," Shanks built them the scope and in return the observatory offered him a job.

Finally, all the varied training and experiences he'd had came together.

After making several more telescopes, he was asked by astronomer Harold Johnson to build a photometer.

"He wanted to do everything electronically and he told me exactly-how he wanted it to work," Shanks said.

Prior to that, telescopes were driven by weights, moving the declination from zenith to horizon and right ascension from east to west.

"Johnson was just starting a program for studying the sky's faintest stars," Shanks explained. "He took a liking to me and said he'd teach me what I needed to know."

At a time when the concept of using electronics was so new that Shanks first had to build the tools he needed before he could even begin to build the astronomer's equipment, he wound up constructing more photometers than anyone else in the world, many of which are still in use.

With computer controlled equipment still a long ways off, the machinist milled stainless steel to 6,000ths of an inch by hand, using dry ice and other ad hoc materials to achieve the difficult specifications.

"Building the photometers was a very small but important part of my job," Shanks explained. "If it wasn't right, the astronomer wouldn't get the right results."

For some instrument makers, the frustration of working six or seven months on a piece of equipment that might be used only one night is too much.

Fortunately for Lowell, Shanks understood the importance of his painstaking tasks.

"A thousandth of an inch here on Earth equates to miles across up in space -- the error is significant," Shanks said. "In instrument making you have to hold your tolerances as if [the equipment] was going to be used forever. It comes with the job."

ORIGINAL PUBLICATION DATE: JULY 22, 2009

From The Arizona Daily Sun azdaily.com 07/08/15:

Donald D. Shanks

Donald D. Shanks was born on January 24, 1920 in Fox, Arkansas, and passed away on June 29, 2015. He spent most of his life in Flagstaff, graduating from Flagstaff High School in 1938. He held a variety of jobs including playing music and trapping for sheep camps prior to World War II. Don enlisted in the Army Air Corps and flew many missions in Italy, Africa, and France as a flight maintenance gunner on the A-20 Attack Bomber in the 27th Bombardment Group. He was awarded the American Defense Service Medal, European African Middle Eastern Service Medal with 4 Bronze Stars, Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart, and Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters. After returning from Europe, he married his beloved Anna Marie Reinhart in Buffalo, NY, and returned to Flagstaff to work for the Flagstaff Police Department. Don held various part time jobs with the Forest Service as well as working as a volunteer fireman. Eventually, he was offered a position as instrument maker at Lowell Observatory where he worked until his retirement in 1988. Don was dedicated to teaching hunter safety classes.

Don resided in Sedona and is survived by his daughter Janet (William) Fish, sons Gerald (Merry Carol) and Leonard (Janice), 6 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Anna Marie, son Daniel, parents and a sister.

A Memorial Mass will be held at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 700 Bill Grey Rd., Cottonwood, AZ on July 10 at 10:00 AM with inurnment to follow in All Souls Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Wounded Warrior project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675.

An online guestbook is available to sign. (http://www.westcottfuneralhome.com/obituary/Donald-D.-Shanks/Sedona-AZ/1523817)

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