The city of Nantes, France was occupied by the Germans in WWII and was partly destroyed. Nantes was the target of three of the 384th’s bombing missions, two in 1943 and one in 1944.
- 384th BG Mission 24 on 16 September 1943. The target was a blockade runner ship in the Loire River. But upon arrival the group found that the intended target, a ship loaded with munitions, was not found in the briefed area. The Group attacked the secondary target, port facilities and shipping, with good results.
- 384th BG Mission 25 on 23 September 1943. A week later, the Group returned to the Nantes port area with the target a ship believed to be a floating repair shop for submarines. Bombs were dropped using visual aiming, with undetermined results.
- 384th BG Mission 132A on 10 June 1944. The target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) at Chateau Bougon Airfield. The Group flew as the high group of the 41st “A” Combat Bombardment Wing. Bombing results were described as excellent.
But these would not be the only missions of the 384th Bomb Group to Nantes, France.
Nantes was liberated by the Americans in 1944. At the end of the year, the 384th Bomb Group flew one more mission there. Intelligence Officer Oscar P. Picard conceived a special Christmas gift mission to Nantes to distribute gifts and toys to thousands of children in the city.
The men of the 384th Bomb Group contributed money, their candy rations, clothing and toys purchased in town or sent over by request from relatives and friends from home. The money went towards clothing, soap, and other practical necessities of hospitals and orphanages, items unattainable in France.
On this mission, the bomb bays of six B-17s were filled with toys and clothes for the children of Nantes. Delivery was timed for the traditional French gift exchange on New Years Day, 1945.
Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
Col. Julius Kahn Lacey was the second Commander of the 384th Bomb Group from September 6, 1943 to November 23, 1943. He was a temporary replacement for Col. Peaslee.
Julius Kahn Lacey was born in Elizabethton, Tennessee on September 18, 1904. He grew up in Tennessee and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.
In February 1929, he enlisted in the military as a flying cadet and entered Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas. In February 1930, he graduated from Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas. He was appointed second lieutenant in the Air Reserves.
In May 1930, he received his regular army commission orders and reported to Selfridge Field, Michigan, where he served with the 17th Pursuit Squadron. He later served with the 57th Service Squadron.
In August 1931, he entered the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field, Illinois. Following graduation in June 1932, he was assigned to the Fifth Observation Squadron at Mitchel Field, New York.
Before leaving for New York in 1932, Julius Lacey married Page Denman Browne (born April 23, 1913 in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas) in Champaign, Illinois.
In January 1934, Lacey served with the Eastern Zone Army Air Corps air mail operation out of Langley Field, Virginia. In May, he returned to Mitchel Field, serving with the Ninth Observation Group.
In September 1934, he enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduation in June 1936 with a master’s degree in meteorology, Lacey went to Norway and Germany to study weather conditions and research aircraft icing.
Lacey returned to Langley Field in September 1936 as base meteorological officer. He put the new Weather Service into place for the Air Corps. It was Lacey who proposed transferring the meteorological service from the Signal Corps and he planned and formulated the new organization.
In March 1937, he became the meteorological officer of the Second Wing of the Air Corps. Three months later, he assumed command of the Second Weather Squadron and was regional control officer of the Second Weather Region.
In December 1939, he graduated from a four-month course at the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field in Alabama, and then returned to Langley Field.
In 1940, Lacey was selected to survey port facilities and possible locations for air bases in Greenland. By December, he assumed command of the Fourth Weather Region at Maxwell Field, Alabama.
In August 1941, Lacey was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Air Corps and in January 1942, he became Deputy Director of the Weather Service.
In 1942, he was sent to Europe to analyze meteorological problems that affected the Royal Air Force and US Bomber Command.
In 1943, Lacey commanded the Provisional Group at Boise Air Base, Idaho, and then assumed command of the 103rd Combat Wing at Walla Walla Air Base in Washington.
In the latter part of 1943, Lacey went to England where he commanded the 384th Bomb Group for about three months from September 6 to November 23, replacing Colonel Budd Peaslee.
Following his command of the 384th, Brigadier General Julius Lacey was given command of the 94th Bombardment Wing, which was officially activated on December 12, 1943. The Wing was comprised of the 351st Bomb Group, 401st Bomb Group, and 457th Bomb Group. Lacey commanded the wing until June 1945.
In July 1945, Lacey went on to command the 15th Bombardment Training Wing, and then the Second Air Force from November 1945 to February 1946. (One source alternately states Lacey’s service at this time as: in July 1945, he became Deputy Commander for Operations and Training of the Second Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colorado).
In June 1946, Lacey entered the National War College at Washington, D.C. He graduated a year later and was appointed Commandant of the Air Tactical School, Tyndall Field, Florida.
In 1950, General Lacey joined the Air Training Command and assumed command of Mather Air Force Base, California and the 3535th Bomb Training Wing there.
In February 1952, Lacey was appointed combat crew training Air Force project officer at ATRC headquarters, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, and assumed command of the Crew Training Air Force, ATRC, at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in March.
In October 1953, Lacey transferred to Far East Air Forces, and became Vice Commander of the Fifth Air Force. He was named special assistant to the commander, FEAF, on May 5, 1954. On July 15, 1954 he was appointed J-3, Far East Command, FEAF, and on April 26, 1955 became Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans, FEAF.
General Lacey returned to the United States in November 1955, and was appointed Commandant, USAF Institute of Technology, Air University, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He retired in 1957 as a US Air Force Major General.
Julius Lacey’s decorations include the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, and the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre with Palm.
Julius Kahn Lacey died in July 5, 1992 in San Antonio, Bexar, Texas. He is buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas, Plot: Section 4 Site 25-A. He also has a cenotaph memorial at Lacey Cemetery in Carter County Tennessee. His wife Page died less than a year later on April 1, 1993 and is buried beside him.
Note: Also buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery is Robert Fish, fifth commander of the 384th Bomb Group.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
Jack Coleman Cook, continued…
Jack’s mother, Mary Ellen Cagle?
In 1920, Mary Ellen was 17 years old and still living at home with her parents, Carson and Ada Cagle, and brother, Willis (18), on their farm in Holmes County, Mississippi.
Jack was born on October 18, 1925.
In 1926, Mary Ellen was not married to Jack’s father, William Prince Cook, Sr. She was still Mary Ellen Cagle and lived at 1772 Madison Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, and was a stenographer for Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company. In 1928, she lived at 194 Hawthorne, Apt 9, Memphis, and still was a stenographer for Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company.
In 1930 and 1931, Mary Ellen was a renter at 1814 Poplar Avenue (or Blvd), Apartment 23 in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee. She paid $65 a month in rent. Three other families were listed at the same address: Raymond and Dorothy Gill and their daughter Dorothy; Eugene and Maxine Lerner and their daughter Lyma; and Irvin and Charlyn Norton. Mary Ellen was a secretary for the Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company. She was single and was 27 years old. On August 26, 1931, Mary Ellen arrived in the port of New Orleans aboard the Cefalu. She had departed Cristobal in the Canal Zone on August 22. Her address is listed as Memphis, Tennessee and she may have been traveling with a group of women from Memphis.
In 1932 and 1933, she lived at 1435 Madison Avenue, Memphis. The last Memphis city directory listing I see for Mary Ellen Cagle is 1933.
I believe Mary Ellen quit her job and married William Prince Cook, Sr. in 1933 or early 1934 and Prince Jr. and Princella are her children. William Prince Cook, Jr., was born December 3, 1934 in Tennessee. Younger sister, Mary Princella Cook, was born March 8, 1936 in Memphis, Tennessee. I do not believe Jack Coleman Cook is her son. He must be her step-son, provided William Prince Cook, Sr. is his father.
Past the 1933 Memphis City Directory listing, I do not see any more records of Mary Ellen until the 1940 census showing her as Mary Ellen Cook. Also listed are husband William P., Jack, Prince Jr. and Princella at their home in Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas. Past that are only Social Security death records.
Jack’s father, William Prince Cook, Sr.?
William Prince Cook, Sr.’s parents were father Ripley Cook and mother Annie Orne Cook. Annie Orne was born in June 1866 in Mississippi. In 1870, she lived in Tupelo, Mississippi, and in 1880, she lived in District 14, Shelby County, Tennessee. Memphis is in Shelby County. William Prince Cook was Ripley and Annie’s son, born in March 1894, and was named after Annie’s father, William Prince Orne, who was born in 1827 in Mississippi, and died in 1883 in Shelby County, Tennessee. Also listed in the 1900 census were their other children Walter Gibbs (born September 1888, no explanation of different last name given), Benn Cook (born February 1898), and Elvin Cook (born March 1900). So even though William Prince Cook, Sr. was born in Arkansas, he must have had relatives in the Memphis area.
On June 5 of 1917, when William Prince Cook, Sr. registered for WWI, he lived in Shelby County, Tennessee. Records of William Prince Cook, Sr. are even more scarce than records of Mary Ellen Cagle. I don’t find him on a census except for 1900 and 1940.
I don’t see any indication that William Prince Cook, Sr. was married before he married Mary Ellen Cagle. So Jack may have been his child from a previous marriage, or Jack may have been a relative that William adopted. I have no way to know.
To make this search even more difficult, I find that in 1940 there were two Jack C. Cook’s living on Garland Avenue in Hot Springs Arkansas. Jack Coleman Cook lived at 909 Garland Avenue and Jack Calvin Cook lived at 607 Garland Avenue. Jack Calvin Cook was 15 or 16 years old and born in Colorado. His parents were Cecil and Ruth Cook and he had a younger sister named Gertrude. Like William Prince Cook, Sr., Cecil was born in Arkansas. The two Cook families could have been related, although I don’t know for sure.
Jack Coleman Cook remains a mystery to me. The next lead I will follow will be through the family of his wife, Lucille Hutzell, but I will save that search for another day. Even if I don’t find any family that remembers Jack Cook, I will always remember him and his sacrifice in WWII.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016
On February 3, 1945, Jack Coleman Cook, the ball turret gunner on the Robert Clax Long crew, saved the life of Edward Field, the crew’s navigator. After the pilot ditched their B-17, 42-102501, also known as The Challenger, in the North Sea, Cook gave his spot in the life raft to Field. Edward Field survived the ditching. Jack Cook did not.
Jack Cook deserves to be honored for his bravery on that day. To that end, I am researching Jack Cook to see if I can find any living relatives. In most cases, my research reveals a fairly clear picture of someone’s past from so long ago. But in Jack’s case, there are a lot of holes in his family’s history, possibly caused by some name and location changes, so this search is going to require a bit more work than most. Today I am publishing what I have found, but hopefully by next week, I will have a clearer picture of Jack and his family.
Jack Cook’s parents were William Prince Cook, Sr. and Mary Ellen Cagle Cook (see Notes). William Prince Cook, Sr. was born January 27, 1894 in Clarkedale, Crittenden County, Arkansas. He fought in WWI with Battery A, 114th Field Artillery, 30th Division. Mary Ellen Cagle Cook was born Feb. 1, 1903 in Durant, Holmes County, Mississippi.
Oldest son, Jack Coleman Cook, was born October 18, 1925 in Tennessee. (See Notes).
I cannot find any early records or even a 1930 census record for the family, but the 1940 census indicates that in 1935, the Cook family lived in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee.
The Cook family’s 1940 census record was taken on April 5, 1940. It showed that they lived at 909 Garland Avenue, Hot Springs, Arkansas.
In 1940, Jack’s father was forty-six years old and owned an automobile dealership, Prince Cook Motors, at 500 Ouachita Avenue in Hot Springs. Jack’s mother, Mary Ellen Cagle Cook was thirty-seven years old. Jack was fourteen, and the highest grade he had completed was seventh grade, indicating that he was attending eighth grade in the 1939 to 1940 school year. Jack had a younger brother, William Prince Cook, Jr., who was five years old (born December 3, 1934 in Tennessee), and was called “Prince.” Jack also had a younger sister, Mary Princella Cook, who was 4 years old (born March 8, 1936 in Memphis, Tennessee), and was called “Princella.” Also living with the Cook family in 1940 was a live-in nurse, twenty-six year old Geneva Pegues.
On December 10, 1943, almost two months past his eighteenth birthday, Jack Cook enlisted in WWII.
On August 12, 1944, still 18 years old, Jack Cook married Lucille Hutzell in Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas. Lucille was from Hot Springs and was nineteen years old (born December 29, 1924 in Buckner, Franklin County, Illinois) when she married Jack.
After completing his military training, on January 9, 1945, Jack was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 546th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #8 as the ball turret gunner of the Robert Long crew. His first mission was on January 29, 1945, with the target the railroad marshalling yards in Siegen, Germany. Three days later, Jack flew his second mission on February 1, 1945, with the target a highway and railroad bridge in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Two days after that mission, Jack flew his third and final mission on February 3, 1945, with the target the Tempelhof railroad marshalling yards in Berlin.
Jack was only nineteen years old and he and Lucille had been married less than six months when he died in the North Sea.
On September 8, 1945 Lucille remarried. She married James Virgil Harmon in Garland County, Arkansas. James also fought in WWII. James was born on October 20 or 22, 1925 (just a few days after Jack Cook was born) in Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas. Being so close in age, Jack and James may have been schoolmates.
Jack is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas, Plot: Block C. His mother (step-mother), father, and brother are buried nearby, also in Block C. Jack’s father, William Prince Cook, Sr., died May 13, 1962, Jack’s brother, William Prince Cook, Jr., died January 2, 1981, and Jack’s mother, Mary Ellen Cagle Cook, died Oct. 30, 1989. Jack’s sister, Mary Princella Cook, died March 3, 1990, burial place unknown. Princella lived in the family home at 909 Garland Avenue in Hot Springs until her death.
Lucille’s second husband, James Virgil Harmon, died December 15, 1973 in North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, and is buried in Edgewood Memorial Park.
Lucille Hutzell Cook Harmon died March 25, 2011 in Beebe, White County, Arkansas.
I would like to find any living relatives of Jack Coleman Cook. They should know of his bravery on his last mission in WWII. I don’t know if, in their short marriage, Jack and Lucille had any children, but his brother and sister may have had children, which would be his nieces and nephews. Please write to me if you are related to Jack Coleman Cook and would like to join the mission to honor Jack.
- I have reason to believe that Mary Ellen Cagle was Jack’s step-mother rather than his mother, but not enough time to investigate fully before posting this article. I hope to have it all figured out by next week and will add more/correct this post’s information then.
- Jack Coleman Cook’s birth year is incorrect on his headstone. It reads 1926 rather than 1925. Find-a-grave record.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016