COOK, DONALD GILBERT
Name: Donald Gilbert Cook Rank/Branch: O3/US Marine Corps Unit: COMMCO, 3rd Marine Division Date of Birth: 09 August 1934 (Brooklyn NY) Home City of Record: Essex Junction VT (also listed in some places as New York NY and Burlington VT) Date of Loss: 31 December 1964 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 104517N 1073622E (YS850900) Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War Category: 1 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground Refno: 0050 Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
REMARKS: ON PRG DIC LIST 671208
Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2008.
SYNOPSIS: Donald Cook was an advisor to the 4th Battalion, Vietnamese Marine Corps operating in the Delta when they engaged the enemy on New Year's Eve, 1964. Cook was wounded in the leg during the battle and subsequently captured by the Viet Cong. Cook was then 30 years old.
During his years of captivity in camps north of Saigon, Cook set an example difficult to emulate by his fellow POWs. He jeopardized his own health and well-being by sharing his already meager supply of food and scarce medicines with other prisoners who were more ill than he. According to one released POW, Cook was so hard-nosed that he "would have stopped shitting if he had thought Charlie was using it for fertilizer." Cook became nearly legendary in his refusal to betray the Military Code of Conduct.
Air Force Colonel Norman Gaddis, upon his return from captivity, described the impossible task of adhering to the Code of Conduct. Gaddis said that he did not know anyone who had refused to cooperate with their captives after having been tortured to do so, and those who had refused were "not with us today."
Cook refused to cooperate with his captors in any way. On one occasion, a pistol was put to his head as a threat to cooperate. Cook calmly recited the nomenclature of the parts of the pistol. He would give them nothing.
According to the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) list provided to the U.S. in Paris in 1973, Donald Cook died of malaria in South Vietnam on December 8, 1967 while being moved from one camp to another. The Vietnamese provided this information to the U.S. in 1973, but have not yet "discovered" the location of his remains. For his extraordinary actions during his captivity, Donald Cook was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and has been promoted to the rank of Colonel. Alive or dead, Donald Cook is still a prisoner of war.
Medal of Honor
COOK, DONALD GILBERT
Rank and organization: Colonel, United States Marine Corps. Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam
Place and date: Vietnam, 31 December, 1964 to 8 December, 1967
Entered service at: Brooklyn, New York
Born: 9 August 1934, Brooklyn, New York
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while interned as a Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 31 December 1964 to 8 December 1967. Despite the fact that by so doing he would bring about harsher treatment for himself, Colonel (then Captain) Cook established himself as the senior prisoner, even though in actuality he was not. Repeatedly assuming more than his share of harsh treatment, Colonel Cook willingly and unselfishly put the interests of his comrades before that of his own well-being and, eventually, his life. Giving more needy men his medicine and drug allowance while constantly nursing them, he risked infection from contagious diseases while in a rapidly deteriorating state of health. This unselfish and exemplary conduct, coupled with his refusal to stray even the slightest from the Code of Conduct, earned him the deepest respect from not only his fellow prisoners, but his captors as well. Rather than negotiate for his own release or better treatment, he steadfastly frustrated attempts by the Viet Cong to break his indomitable spirit, and passed this same resolve on to the men whose well-being he so closely associated himself. Knowing his refusals would prevent his release prior to the end of the war, and also knowing his chances for prolonged survival would be small in the event of continued refusal, he chose nevertheless to adhere to a Code of Conduct far above that which could be expected. His personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyalty in the face of almost certain death reflected the highest credit upon Colonel Cook, the Marine Corps. and the United States Naval Service.
Defense POW/MIA Weekly Update February 26, 1999
NAVY COMMISSIONS SHIP TO HONOR POW
Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer Donald Cook (DDG 75) was commissioned in December in Philadelphia.
Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was the ceremony's principal speaker. Laurette Cook, widow of the ship's namesake, is the ship's sponsor. In the time-honored Navy tradition, Mrs. Cook gave the order to "man our ship and bring her to life!"
The ship honors Col. Donald G. Cook, US Marine Corps (1934-1967), who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry as a prisoner of war. While assigned to the Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division in Saigon, Republic of Vietnam, in Dec. 1964, Cook volunte ered to conduct a search and recovery mission for a downed American helicopter. Ambushed on arrival at the site, he was wounded in the leg and captured.
Despite enduring deprivation, exposure, malnutrition and disease, Cook committed himself to providing inspiration for his fellow prisoners to endure and survive during his incarceration in a prison camp near the Cambodian border. Resisting all
attempts to break his will, he never veered from the Code of Conduct. He shared food, led daily exercises, provided first aid for injured prisoners and distributed what meager quantities of medicine were available, often surrendering his own rations and medicine to aid fellow prisoners whose conditions were more serious than his own. Reports indicate Cook died in captivity after he succumbed to malaria on Dec. 8, 1967.
Donald Cook is the 25th of 51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers currently authorized by Congress. The destroyer carries Tomahawk cruise missiles, as well as Standard missiles to intercept hostile aircraft and missiles at extended ranges. Donald Cook is also equipped with the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System and Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles, which are fired from stand-alone launchers.
Donald Cook is crewed by 25 officers and 350 enlisted personnel. The ship was built at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, is 505 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 66 feet and displaces approximately 8,580 tons when fully loaded. Four gas-turbine engines power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.
Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2007 2:41 PM Subject: Marine Col Donald Gilbert Cook Posthumous MOH
.... you might be interested to know that I have written a biography about Colonel Donald Gilbert Cook. He was the first Marine captured in Vietnam, and the first and only Marine to ever earn the Medal of Honor in captivity. The USS DONALD COOK (DDG-75) was named in his honor. The ship's motto epitomizes Cook's life: Faith Without Fear.
Cook was captured on December 31, 1964, while serving as an observer with the Fourth Battalion (Killer Sharks) of Vietnamese Marines at the Battle of Binh Gia. The Viet Cong held cook in a series of primitive jungle POW camps. For nearly three years, Cook led ten fellow POWs in captivity, always looking out for their health and welfare, while complying with the spirit and intent of the Code of Conduct. He reportedly died on December 8, 1967, on a forced march to a new camp. Cook was declared officially dead in February 1980. His remains have never been recovered. His wife and four children survived him, as well as seven of his former POW comrades.
McFarland Publishing Company of Jefferson, NC, and London, UK, is publishing Cook's biography. (McFarland is not a vanity press or self-publishing house.)
The title is The First Marine Captured in Vietnam; A Biography of Donald G. Cook. The book's ISBN number is 078642804X.
It may be ordered from McFarland's website at www.mcfarlandpub.com. More information about the book is on that site. The book may also be ordered from other websites, including amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Any profits that I might make from book sales will go toward the education of Colonel Cook?Ts ten grandchildren.
Thought you would like to know about this almost forgotten POW hero.
Semper Fidelis Don Donald L. Price Colonel, USMC, Retired 2769 Coral Brooke Drive Sierra Vista, AZ 85650 Tel/Fax: (520) 803-9234
Home | History/Military/Vietnam War
The First Marine Captured in Vietnam A Biography of Donald G. Cook Donald L. Price
ISBN 978-0-7864-2804-5 67 photographs, appendix, notes, bibliography, index 334pp. softcover 2007
$35 Available for immediate shipment
Description Colonel Donald Gilbert Cook was the first U.S. Marine captured in Vietnam; the first and only Marine in history to earn the Medal of Honor while in captivity; and the first Marine POW to have a U.S. Navy ship named in his honor, the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75). On December 31, 1964, while serving as an observer with a South Vietnamese Marine Corps battalion on a combat operation against Viet Cong forces, he was captured near the village of Binh Gia in South Vietnam. Until his death in captivity in December 1967, Cook led ten POWs in a series of primitive jungle camps. His leadership and adherence to the U.S. Military Code of Conduct earned him the nation's highest military award, but Cook never received historical attention commensurate with his enormous accomplishments.
This is the first book-length biography of Colonel Donald G. Cook. With background information on Cook's life and prewar career, the book concentrates especially on his three years in captivity, and is the first book exclusively about a Marine POW held in South Vietnam. It covers the ten other POWs under his command, including Sgt. Harold George Bennett (the first American POW executed in Vietnam) and Sgt. Isaac Camacho (the first American POW to escape in Vietnam). The author outlines the circumstances surrounding Cook's Medal of Honor citation and death. Throughout, Cook's adherence to the Corps' traditional leadership principles and knowledge of the Code of Conduct are highlighted, and his biography is a unique case study of exemplary leadership under extremely difficult conditions. Nearly 70 photographs are included.
About the Author Retired Marine Colonel Donald L. Price earned the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart for service in Vietnam. He lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona.