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Monthly Archives: March 2018

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An Honor for Jack Coleman Cook in the Congressional Record

On February 3, 1945, 384th Bomb Group ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook saved the life of navigator Edward Field in the cold North Sea when their B-17, The Challenger, was forced to ditch on the return trip to England after their mission to Berlin.

Jack Coleman Cook is finally receiving the honor he deserves for his bravery and heroism that day. He has now received and is still receiving several honors and today I want to share with you Jack’s honor that was entered into the Congressional Record of March 21, 2018 by Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman.

The text of the honor reads:

HONORING SERGEANT JACK COLEMAN COOK OF HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
(Extensions of Remarks – March 21, 2018)

[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 49 (Wednesday, March 21, 2018)]

HONORING SERGEANT JACK COLEMAN COOK OF HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

______

HON. BRUCE WESTERMAN

of arkansas

in the house of representatives

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

  Mr. WESTERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Sergeant Jack Coleman Cook of Hot Springs, Arkansas, for his heroic actions in World War II when he selflessly sacrificed his own life to save his fellow airmen.

Sergeant Cook was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress, the “Challenger,” with the 384th Bomb Group. On February 3, 1945, the 384th Bomb Group participated in a mission to bomb the Tempelhof Railroad Marshalling Yards in Berlin. During the mission, the Challenger was hit by flak, damaging multiple engines, gas tanks, and the fuselage, but left the crew unharmed.

As they made their way back to base in England, their plane began losing altitude and crash landed in the frigid North Sea. As soon as the plane hit the water, the crew members proceeded to abandon the aircraft and pull out the two life rafts, but only one fully inflated. The pilot and radio operator swam for the partially inflated raft, but the pilot succumbed to the cold and passed away, and the radio operator was dragged into the sea where he was lost.

The rest of the crew swam for the closer, fully inflated raft. Sergeant Cook, the first to make it, helped four other crewmembers into the overcrowded raft, while two men stayed in the water. Edward Field, the navigator who stayed in the water, began to push their raft towards the second raft. After thirty minutes in the water, Edward Field became numb, and said that he could no longer hold on.

Jack Coleman Cook got into the water so Edward Field could take his spot in the raft, where he continuously swam for forty-five minutes until they reached the second raft. Shortly after, Air-Sea rescue reached their position, but Sergeant Cook had little life left in him, and he passed away on the boat.

Sergeant Cook selflessly sacrificed his own life so Edward Field and his fellow crewmembers could live. Those men returned to duty only four weeks after the crash, where they bravely fought through the rest of the war.

Jack Coleman Cook is a true American hero who showed bravery and courage in a time of great circumstance. He gave his life for his fellow man, and for this, we remember him over seventy years later. It is with great pride that I honor Jack Coleman Cook.

______

Thank you Congressman Westerman and staff for recognizing Jack Coleman Cook with this honor.

The honor in the Congressional Record can also be viewed directly here.

I’ll be sharing more honors for Jack Coleman Cook in coming articles…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

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Hitler’s Enabling Act

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about events leading up to WWII in the Winter of 1933. One of the most significant events of that time was the passage of Hitler’s Enabling Act.

On March 23 of that year, the newly elected members of the Reichstag (German Parliament) met in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider the Act, which was officially called the “Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.” They were meeting in the opera house because on February 27, the Nazis had burned the Reichstag building and blamed the fire on the Communists. The fire caused the “distress” and an atmosphere of crisis in Germany as the German people were led to believe an uprising was coming.

The next day, March 24, the vote to pass Hitler’s Enabling Act was held. Nazi Storm Troopers intimidated those who might oppose Hitler, glaring menacingly and chanting “Full powers – or else! We want the bill – or fire and murder!” They had gathered around the opera house, in the hallways, and lined the aisles.

Just before the vote, Hitler addressed the group. He said,

The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures…

The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one.

Hitler made other promises he did not intend to keep, to end unemployment and to promote peace with France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. But he said in order to do these things, he needed the Enabling Act.

To pass his Act, Hitler needed a two thirds majority as the law would change the German Constitution. He had the Nazi vote, but he needed thirty-one non-Nazi votes, which he would get that day from the Center Party by making a false promise to restore some basic rights that had been taken away.

Before the vote, Otto Wells, leader of the Social Democrat party, bravely spoke before the group, addressing Hitler.

We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible.

An enraged Hitler responded,

You are no longer needed! – The star of Germany will rise and yours will sink! Your death knell has sounded!

When the vote was taken, four hundred forty-one voted for the Enabling Act. Only eighty-four, the Social Democrats, voted against it. With well over two thirds of the vote, the Nazis achieved what Adolf Hitler had wanted to do for years, legally end democracy in Germany and claim dictatorial powers. The passage of Adolf Hitler’s Enabling Act paved the way for the Nazi takeover of Germany.

These events happened eighty-five years ago this week. It seems like a very long time ago, and then again, it doesn’t.

For many of us, our parents were school children during this time in history. Merely a decade later, our fathers, who were in their late teens or early twenties, and should have been chasing girls, were chasing Nazis instead.

Sources:

The History Place

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

An Interview with Col. Robert E. Thacker

Christopher Wilkinson

Late last year, 384th Bomb Group NexGen Christopher Wilkinson requested my help with a special project. Back in 2014, Chris sat down with Col. Robert E. Thacker in the Colonel’s home for a lengthy interview.  Chris wanted to turn that raw interview footage into a video, but didn’t have the tools to do it himself. He knew I had dabbled in video production, so Chris asked if I would take his footage and some photos of the Colonel and put it all together. Colonel Thacker’s 100th birthday was approaching and Chris wanted to give the Colonel a copy of the interview on DVD as a birthday present. And Chris wanted to upload the video to YouTube so that he could share the interview with others.

I finished the video just in time for Col. Thacker’s birthday and Chris has now uploaded it to YouTube. It covers a lot of ground and is quite interesting. Before I began working on the project, I did not know anything about the experiences and accomplishments of Colonel Robert E. Thacker. The Colonel has led an amazing life and each story he tells tops the one he told previous.

Colonel Thacker was an important player in the 384th Bomb Group in WWII, which was Chris’s initial interest in interviewing him. But Thacker was so much more than a respected Deputy Commander of the Group as you will learn watching the video.

I’m happy I had the chance to be involved with the making of the video and I feel honored to have played my part in bringing Colonel Thacker’s story in his own words to the public.

If you’d like to view the video, it is on YouTube in two parts. These links will take you to YouTube to watch them.

Col. Robert E. Thacker Interview Part 1

Part 1 Topics and Highlights…

  • 00:28  Growing up in El Centro, California
  • 02:54  Early interest in aviation
  • 03:42  Airplane modeling
  • 04:32 High school
  • 05:15  Entry in the Air Corps
  • 10:50  Strategic bombing training
  • 11:52  Family
  • 13:05  The romance of flying
  • 13:34  Marriage to Betty Joe
  • 14:00  First assignment
  • 16:43  Transition to B-17’s and Pearl Harbor
  • 32:15  The Pacific Theater in WWII

Col. Robert E. Thacker Interview Part 2

Part 2 Topics and Highlights…

  • 00:48  The Pacific Theater in WWII
  • 08:05  The WWII Battle of the Coral Sea and a close call with the USS Chicago
  • 11:00  Strategic bombing in the Pacific Theater
  • 12:10  Repatriated back to the States to train B-17 crews
  • 13:12  Thacker Provisional Group took forty B-17’s to North Africa and on into Foggia, Italy
  • 15:05  A military man goes to Europe
  • 16:20  Flying B-17’s with the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th AF out of Grafton Underwood, England in the WWII European Theater
  • 31:25  Back to the States and reassignment
  • 33:30  Flight Test Division Assignment at the Experimental Test Pilot Academy of the US Air Force at Wright Patterson in Dayton, Ohio
  • 35:10  Flying the P-82 non-stop between Honolulu and New York City
  • 43:50  Test pilot days with Chuck Yeager and Bob Hoover

Like I said, it’s a long interview, so get comfortable and sit back, put your feet up and take a look. You’ll learn a lot about the life and aviation career of Col. Robert E. Thacker. He’s a fascinating storyteller and will leave you wanting more.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Dachau Opens Near Munich

In March 1933, as the Police President of Munich, SS leader Heinrich Himmler, and the Nazis open the Dachau concentration camp near Munich for political enemies of the Third Reich. It was constructed at an unused munitions factory located twelve miles northwest of Munich on the Amper River. Himmler chose Theodor Eicke to organize Dachau, which became the model for all future SS concentration camps. Eicke became known as the “Father of the Concentration Camp System.”

Before the formal concentration camp system began, conventional prisons were becoming overwhelmed with political prisoners of the Nazis and early crude camps known as “wild” concentration camps were quickly constructed. They were often simply stockades surrounded by barbed wire. Prisoners were subjected to military-style drills, beatings, and torture. Often, prisoners were held for ransom and were released upon payment.

At Dachau, each prisoner passed through an iron gate, arriving under the Nazi slogan, “Arbeit Macht Frei.” Work sets you free. The prisoners were presented with another slogan painted inside the camp. “There is one way to freedom. Its milestones are: obedience, zeal, honesty, order, cleanliness, temperance, truth, sense of sacrifice and love for the Fatherland.”

In the early days of Dachau, most were political prisoners who were not told how long they would be imprisoned. For most, it was the first time they had ever been in trouble with the police or arrested. Upon being detained, they were told, “Based on Article One of the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State of 28 February 1933, you are taken into protective custody in the interest of public security and order. Reason: suspicion of activities inimical to the State.”

The prisoners worked twelve-hour days in a camp workshop or outside along the camp grounds. Their health declined quickly due to the long work hours, poor nutrition, and inadequate sanitation.

The harsh forced labor system became the model for all subsequent concentration camps as Himmler and the SS took advantage of a ready supply of slave labor.

Under Theodor Eicke, SS guards at Dachau underwent rigorous military training in addition to their camp guard duty. Eicke convinced them to treat all inmates as dangerous enemies of the state and to not harbor any sympathy for the prisoners. The guards had to witness or participate in acts of cruelty against the prisoners, who were treated as numbers, not persons, stripped of everything human.

The existence of Dachau and other early concentration camps instilled fear in all Germans and effectively suppressed any political opposition to Hitler and the Nazi regime.

 Source:

The History Place World War II in Europe

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018