More detail on this person: Samuel Alva Banks
learned that flying military aircraft was no
picnic in 1956 when his radio failed in adverse
weather, forcing him to parachute to safety in
A decade later, as an Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Lt. Col. Banks was awarded multiple decorations for combat duty, including the Soldier's Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Merit.
Col. Banks would go on to win awards as an insurance executive before retiring in July as a vice president of the San Diego branch of the Insurance Company of the West.
He was 65 when he died of cancer last Sunday at San Diego Hospice.
Assigned to Vietnam in the spring of 1966, Col. Banks became the aircraft commander for Brig. Gen. James F. Hollingsworth.
He was awarded the prestigious Soldier's Medal for saving a life, and later was nominated by his commanding officer for Army Aviator of the Year, family members said.
In February 1969, Col. Banks was assigned to Thailand, where he helped build and staff primary schools in rural areas. He also served on an emergency team during floods, delivering food and other supplies.
For his efforts, Col. Banks received an International Red Cross award and aviator wings from the Royal Thai Army.
His last assignment before retiring from active duty in January 1973 was as deputy senior adviser for the 63rd Army Reserve Command in Phoenix.
Col. Banks, a native of Nevada, Mo., began his Army career in January 1953 and received his wings in April 1955.
He was assigned to the 287th Field Artillery Battalion in Germany in 1956, when the adverse weather forced him to parachute from his aircraft.
In the early 1960s, as a helicopter pilot in Chun Chon, South Korea, Col. Banks evacuated a family of four from a flood and saved a drowning man.
His interest in aviation stemmed from his early days as an employee of Northrop Aircraft in Los Angeles, where he grew up.
Col. Banks graduated from Fremont High School in Los Angeles, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame in May 1996, and attended the University of Southern California.
He moved from Arizona to San Diego in 1984 to become vice president for corporate marketing with the Insurance Company of the West. He was honored by colleagues in the industry in 1987 and 1998 with Outstanding Insurance Professional Awards.
In 1992, the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers Association of San Diego named him Outstanding Associate.
Col. Banks moved in 1990 from his Fashion Hills condominium to Scripps Ranch, where he was a member of North Star Community Church.
He is survived by his wife, Carolle; three daughters, Lynn Bassett of Tempe, Ariz., Valerie Van Dam of Tucson, Ariz., and Mary Banks of San Diego; a son, Sam A. Banks Jr. of Hilliard, Ohio; his mother, Lowa Banks of Escondido; and three grandchildren.
Services were Thursday at First Baptist Church of Pacific Beach. Donations are suggested to San Diego Hospice or the American Cancer Society.
This information was last updated 05/18/2016
Please send additions or corrections to: HQ@vhpa.org VHPA Headquarters
Return to the Helicopter Pilot DAT name list
Return to VHPA web site
Date posted on this site: 05/13/2023
Copyright © 1998 - 2023 Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association