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