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 ::