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)


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 2020.

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


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


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

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


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

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 More
information about the book is on that site. The book may also be ordered
from other websites, including and

Any profits that I might make from book sales will go toward the education
of Colonel Cookƒ?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

Available for immediate shipment

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,


More info




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Captain Donald Gilbert Cook entered the U.S. Marine Corps from New York and served in Headquarters Company, 3rd Marine Division. On December 31, 1964, he was an advisor to the 4th Vietnamese Marine Corps Battalion when it participated in an operation near Binh Gia, Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam. That day, the unit encountered Viet Cong elements in the vicinity of (GC) YS 500 770 and in the ensuing firefight Capt Cook was wounded and captured. Members of the Vietnamese Marine unit saw Capt Cook carried away by Viet Cong troops and his circumstances that followed are unknown. In December 1970, a prisoner released back to U.S. custody reported that Capt Cook died of malaria on December 8, 1967. Attempts to recover Capt Cook's remains have been unsuccessful. Following his loss, the Marine Corps posthumously promoted Capt Cook to the rank of Colonel (Col). Today, Colonel Cook is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

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