Donald Gilbert Cook
Colonel, United States Marine Corps
Born at Brooklyn, New York, August 9, 1934, he was a career military officer and earned the during the Vietnam War. He was reported missing in action on December 8, 1967 and was declared dead on February 26, 1980. He had been seriously wounded and reported dead while, in fact, he had been captured by the Viet Cong on December 31, 1964 while on a temporary 3-day assignment in Vietnam.
He subsequently died in a prisoner of war camp on December 8, 1967
and was buried in the jungle by his fellow prisoners. On February 26, 1980
he was officially declared dead and the was presented to his wife by the Secretary of the
Navy. He was a Captain when captured but continued to receive promotions
while in captivity. He has a "In Memory Of" stone in Memorial Section MI
of Arlington National Cemetery.
Shortly after his December 1956 marriage to Miss Laurette A. Giroux at St. Anthony’s Church in Burlington, Vermont, Cook left Vermont for the Officers Candidate School at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, April 1, 1957.
He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant October 1, 1958 while stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. In 1960 he attended Army Language School in Monterey, California, studying Chinese and graduated near the top of his class. Lieutenant Cook was assigned to Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, in 1961 and was promoted to captain March 1, 1962.
In 1964 the Cook family returned to Vermont when Captain Cook was transferred to Okinawa. In December 1964, Cook was sent to Vietnam where he was captured by the Viet Cong on December 31, 1964 while serving as an advisor with a Vietnamese Marine battalion.
Colonel (then Captain) Cook was in the vicinity of Benh Gia, Phouc Tuy Province, Republic of Vietnam, while participating as a Marine advisor to the South Vietnamese, and went to the site of a helicopter crash with a South Vietnamese unit to check for survivors. When the Viet Cong surrounded the area, Cook was shot in the leg while attempting to assist members of his unit to safety, and was then captured. His personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyalty during his three years of captivity resulted in his posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.
Mrs. Laurette A. Cook, widow of Colonel Cook, received the Medal of Honor on behalf of her husband May 16, 1980 during ceremonies at the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon. The Honorable Edward Hidalgo, Secretary of the Navy, presented the Medal to Mrs. Cook while Cook’s parents and four children looked on along with General Robert H. Barrow, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
A list of Colonel Cook’s medals and decorations includes: the Medal
of Honor, the Purple Heart with one bronze star, the Combat Action Ribbon,
the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal,
and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
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. Date and place of birth: 9 August 1934, Brooklyn New York.
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 their health, 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.
Photo courtesy of Raymond L. Collins
Updated: 23 September 2000 Updated: 2 December 2001 Updated: 15 March 2003 Updated: 3 September 2005 Updated: 26 March 2006