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USS Donald Cook (DDG 75)
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Colonel Donald G. Cook, USMC

 

Bath Iron Work's fourteenth ARLEIGH BURKE Class Destroyer is named to honor Marine Corps hero Colonel Donald G. Cook for his extraordinary courage and exemplary behavior while a prisoner of war in Vietnam from 1964-1967.

Donald Cook grew up in Brooklyn, New York where he excelled at sports and earned the nickname "Bayridge Bomber" for his athletic prowess in football.  Upon graduation from St. Francis Xavier High School, he enrolled at St. Michael's College in Vermont where he flourished academically, athletically and socially.  It was there where he met his bride-to-be, Laurette Giroux.  In 1956, Cook graduated, joined the Marine Corps Reserve and married Laurette.

In 1957, Cook completed Officer Candidate School and went on to Communications Officer School.  His effectiveness in various communications roles at Camp Pendleton earned him a regular commission in the Marine Corps.  After attending the Army Intelligence School in Maryland, Cook was assigned as Officer-in-Charge of the 1st Interrogator-Translator Team with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Hawaii.  It was during this time that Cook became an expert on the affairs of American POWs in Korea, detailed the Communist indoctrination techniques and applied those techniques in realistic training scenarios for Marines.  

In December 1964, Cook was ordered to the Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division in Saigon, Republic of Vietnam.  On December 31, 1964, Donald Cook volunteered to conduct a search-and-recovery mission for a downed American helicopter pilot and set off with the 4th Vietnamese Marines.  Ambushed on their arrival at the site, Cook was wounded in the leg and captured while attempting to rally his Vietnamese allies.
Incarcerated in a prison camp near the Cambodian border, Cook established himself as the senior American officer in defiance of his captor's attempts to eliminate all semblances of military rank and structure among prisoners.  Enduring deprivation, exposure, malnutrition and disease, Cook nonetheless committed himself to providing inspiration for his fellow prisoners to endure and survive.  He shared food, led daily exercises, provided first aid for injured prisoners and distributed what meager quantities of medicine were available.  He often surrendered his own rations and medicine to aid prisoners whose conditions were more desperate than his own.

It was reported in 1973 that Cook had succumbed to malaria on December 8, 1967.  On May 15, 1980, a memorial stone was placed in Arlington National Cemetery and a flag was presented to his wife Laurette.  The following day, Colonel Donald G. Cook was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The ship's motto "Faith Without Fear" epitomizes his courage and faith in God and country. 

Medal of Honor 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 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.
 
 
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