Seventy-five years ago, on February 3, 1945, one of the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17’s, The Challenger, was badly damaged on a mission to Berlin, and during the return flight to England, went down in the North Sea. Only one of the crew survives today, Edward Field, the WWII Army Air Forces navigator turned poet.
Twenty years after the ditching, Edward Field wrote and published the poem, World War II, which describes the tragic events of the day. It first appeared in his second book, Variety Photoplays, in 1967 and was included in the 2003 Library of America anthology of World War II poems, Poets of World War II.
Last year, Edward’s niece, Diane Fredel-Weis, assembled a team to bring Edward’s poem, World War II, to life on the big screen. Diane is, among other things, a former creative Disney marketing executive and an Emmy award-winning writer and producer. As Executive Producer of the film, Minor Accident of War, Diane led a team of world-class artists to create an animated short film from Edward’s poem, which Edward narrates.
The film’s website presents a trailer of the film, introductions to the team, a list of upcoming screenings, information and photos about the making of the film, a biography – including photos and writing credits – of Edward Field, and the text of Edward’s poem, World War II.
Screenings at film festivals are regularly added to the web site, so check back often to find when it will be playing in your area.
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is hosting a reception, screening of the film, and panel discussion with Edward Field and the filmmakers on the 75th anniversary of the ditching on February 3, 2020 from 5 to 7pm at the museum’s Solomon Victory Theater at 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130. Tickets are complimentary, but registration is required.
As of this writing, the film has won many awards, notably…
- Studio City Film Festival, Best Short Documentary, 2019
- Los Angeles Animation Festival, Best Animated Documentary, 2019
- Chicago International REEL Shorts Film Festival, Best Short Film, 2019
- Big Apple Film Festival, Best Animated Film, 2019
- Spotlight Documentary Film Awards, Atlanta, GA, Spotlight Gold Award, December 2019
- Miami Jewish Film Festival, Best Short Film, 2020
…and I’m sure there will be many more.
Edward Field survived the ditching thanks to fellow crew mate Jack Coleman Cook, the ship’s ball turret gunner.
I have written extensively about Edward Field and Jack Coleman Cook and am delighted to attend the event in New Orleans and honored to participate in the panel discussion.
Jack Coleman Cook’s past still intrigues me and I continue to spend many hours attempting to find his family origins prior to his adoption. Recent research seems to be leading me in the right direction, but only time will tell.
Regardless of whether I am successful or not in my continued research of Jack, I’d like to recap my research history here as a refresher, maybe as much for me as you since I will likely need to answer questions about Jack’s history in New Orleans. It’s been a while since I’ve delved into the details of Jack’s short life.
In November 2016, the poet Edward Field became an airman again. Edward sent this e-mail to the webmaster and researchers (of which I am one) of the 384th Bomb Group (historical) website, 384thBombGroup.com,
I’m a veteran of WWII who was stationed at Grafton Underwood Airfield in England during WWII and flew 27 bombing missions over Europe in B17s as Navigator. I’m writing about our ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook, to find out if there’s any way of getting him a posthumous award for bravery. He saved my life on our third mission over Germany when we crashed in the North Sea. Attached is a poem I’ve written about the ditching that describes the circumstances of his death – the poem is included in the Library of America anthology of war poems and also has appeared in several of my own books. I’m 92 now, and feel something should be done to credit Jack Cook’s incredible act of bravery.
Edward Field (2nd Lt., 0-2065887)
546th Bombardment Squadron
384th Bomb Group
Seven months earlier, I had published a series of articles about all of the 384th Bomb Group airmen who are still listed as Missing in Action. When I read the e-mail, the names Edward Field and Jack Coleman Cook registered immediately as part of my story about radio operator Fred Maki who was washed away in the North Sea after the ditching of February 3, 1945. Recalling the co-pilot’s narrative of the events, I remembered thinking exactly as Edward described, “something should be done to credit Jack Cook’s incredible act of bravery.”
But at the time I wrote the MIA articles, Jack Coleman Cook was not the focus of my research and I left the thought as unfinished business that perhaps someday I would follow up on. Edward’s e-mail renewed my interest in honoring Jack Cook and I realized it was something I had to do, especially when the man who benefited from Jack’s bravery asked for help to do so.
Not easily finding a solution to our quest, I eventually sought the advice and help of two friends who were also NexGen’s (next generation – children) of 384th Bomb Group airmen. Frank Alfter, son of waist and tail gunner Glen Edward Alfter, and Todd Touton, son of pilot William F. Touton.
Frank told me how he honored another airman of the 384th for saving his father’s life during a mission with a Proclamation on the Floor of the House of Representatives.
Todd, who wrote the music to and performed Damn Yankee, the music of my 384th Bomb Group tribute video), along with his Washington, D.C. friends Evan Wallach (who wrote the lyrics to Damn Yankee) and David Olive (who was originally from Arkansas, Jack Cook’s home state), put me in touch with Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman’s office.
In April 2018, Edward and I met in Washington, D.C., and were proud to watch Congressman Bruce Westerman and Congressman Jerry Nadler honor Jack Coleman Cook on the Floor of the House of Representatives with two proclamations.
I can’t tell the entire story again here, but if you follow the links below, you can learn more about the journey to honor Jack.
Links to previous posts and other information about Jack Coleman Cook and Edward Field
- Missing in Action, 1945 (Scroll down to the February 3, 1945 section)
- Edward Field
- Jack Coleman Cook
- Jack Coleman Cook – Part 2
- An Honor for Jack Coleman Cook in the Congressional Record
- February 3, 1945 Mission to Berlin
- World War II by Edward Field in print
- Video of poet Edward Field reading World War II
- Congress Honors Jack Coleman Cook
- Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson Honors Jack Coleman Cook
- Delia’s interview on KARK
- Delia’s interview on Fox 16
- A Hero’s Hero
- The Boy Who Took My Place in the Water
- The Cook Family Scrapbook Holds the Answers
- Jack Coleman Cook’s personnel record with the 384th Bomb Group
- Edward Field’s personnel record with the 384th Bomb Group
- Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 15315
- Robert Long crew photo album in the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery
- Edward Field’s Wing Panel Signing Photos
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020