In March, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson honored 384th Bomb Group ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook for his bravery and heroism on February 3, 1945 with this letter.
The letter reads:
STATE OF ARKANSAS
March 12, 2018
As Governor of the State of Arkansas, I would like to recognize World War II veteran Sergeant Jack Coleman Cook of Hot Springs, Arkansas, for his selfless action that saved the life of his fellow crewmate, Edward Field. Like many other young men his age, Cook enlisted as a teenager to fight for his country in a worldwide conflict.
Sergeant Cook was part of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, serving as a ball turret gunner with the 384th Bomb Group based in England. During his third bombing mission while on board “The Challenger”, he made a compassionate decision which prevented him from returning home. “The Challenger” was under heavy fire and multiple engines were damaged, causing the plane to lose altitude on the way back from the target. The plane hit the cold waters of the North Sea, and the crew quickly tried to pull out the two life rafts. The pilot and radio operator went for the raft which did not fully inflate, but the radio operator was lost in the sea and the pilot did not move once he reached the half-inflated raft. Sergeant Cook swam to the second raft and helped pull in four of his crewmates from the frigid water. The crew’s navigator, Edward Field, hung on to the side of the overcrowded raft.
As the crew rowed towards the pilot to link the rafts together, Field was becoming numb from swimming along the raft, and he said that he could not hold on anymore. Sergeant Cook had pity on his crewmate, and though young and newly-married, got into the water so Field could take his spot in the raft. Sergeant Cook’s decision to enter the cold water was an act of kindness which saved Field’s life and has never been forgotten over the years. Sergeant Cook paddled for forty-five minutes and reached the other raft where the pilot was unresponsive. By the time the Air-Sea rescue team found the rafts, Sergeant Cook had little life left in him from exposure, and he passed away on the boat as a hero who cared more for others than he did for himself.
Sergeant Cook served and ultimately gave his life for his fellow man. For this reason, he is remembered over seventy years later. It is appropriate that we continue to honor men like young Sergeant Cook for their character and courage in the face of difficult circumstances. Men like Cook change the outcome of war and the course of history.
Thank you Governor Hutchinson for bestowing this honor on Jack Coleman Cook.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018