Colonel Donald G. Cook, USMC
Bath Iron Works' fifteenth ARLEIGH BURKE Class Destroyer is named in honor of Marine Corps Vietnam War hero, Colonel Donald G. Cook. Col. Cook was awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously) for his extraordinary courage while a prisoner of war. Col. (then Captain) Cook volunteered for a temporary 30 day tour in Vietnam as an observer from Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. Accompanying elements of the 4th Vietnamese Marines, Col. Cook was wounded and captured by a vastly superior Viet Cong force on New Year's Eve 1964 near Binh Gia, Phouc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, while on a search and recovery mission for a downed American helicopter crew.
The 33 year old Brooklyn, New York, native and father of four set an example and standard for his fellow Americans contrary to the Viet Cong's goal of breaking down the prisoners. Col. Cook's rigid adherence to the Code of Conduct won him the respect of his fellow prisoners and his Communist captors.
Donald Cook was the son of Walter and Helen Cook and the brother of Walter and Irene (Walter passed away in 1960 and Irene Coleman still lives in N.Y.). They grew up in a strong Catholic family in Brooklyn attending Jesuit primary and secondary schools. He excelled at sports and his exploits on the gridiron earned him the nickname, "Bayridge Bomber." Upon graduation from Xavier High School, Col. Cook enrolled at St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, where his academic standing was well above average.
Col. Cook enrolled in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps but was subsequently discharged for non-attendance because he had met a beautiful young woman destined to become his wife, Laurette Giroux of Burlington, Vermont. Upon graduation in 1956, Col. Cook joined the Marine Corps Reserve as a private after receiving a special waiver for his lack of attendance at ROTC and completed Marine Corps Officer's Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia in 1957. He then attended Communications Officer School and subsequently served in various communications roles at Camp Pendleton with the 1st Marine Division earning the respect of his superior officers and a regular commission in the Marine Corps. Col. Cook then attended the Chinese Mandarin Language Course at Monterey, California and the Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Maryland graduating first in a class of 25.
The next three years found him serving as the Officer-in-Charge of the 1st Interrogator-Translator Team with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Hawaii. It was during this time that Col. Cook displayed a remarkable fascination with prisoners of war. He wrote a pamphlet based on the experiences of American POWs in Korea detailing the Communist interrogation techniques and he applied those techniques in realistic training scenarios for Marines. Col. Cook would dress in a Communist uniform made by his wife and Laurette would use her eyeliner to make Don appear oriental. He was an imposing spectacle to the "captured" Marines.
On 11 December 1964, Col. Cook was reassigned to the Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion.