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Marine POW in Vietnam....

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  • Marine POW in Vietnam....

    The Lore of the Corps

    Marine POW in Vietnam remembered for courage
    By Fred L. Borch and Robert F. Dorr - Special to the Times
    Posted : July 07, 2008

    Donald Gilbert Cook was the first Marine taken prisoner in Vietnam, but until his death after three years of captivity, Cook steadfastly refused to cooperate with his captors.
    His conduct as a prisoner of war demonstrated the courage and commitment treasured by Marines today.
    Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1934, the captain was married and had four children when he arrived in South Vietnam in December 1964 to spend 30 days assisting South Vietnamese marines in the Mekong River Delta.
    The huge buildup that would transform Vietnam into a major war still lay months ahead. Most Americans “in country” at the time were serving as advisers.
    On New Year’s Eve, Cook and the South Vietnamese were on a search and recovery mission for a downed American helicopter crew when they became caught up in a point-blank battle with a larger Viet Cong force near Binh Gia, 40 miles from Saigon. Cook was wounded in the leg and taken prisoner.
    Conditions for Cook were unspeakably harsh in the primitive jungle camp where he lived with 10 other American prisoners of war.
    Cook bore the brunt of the prisoner workload, insisted on better conditions, nursed the sick and gave up his food when other prisoners needed it more.
    At one point, a Viet Cong guerrilla held a pistol to Cook’s head and threatened to kill him for refusing to order another American to write an antiwar message. Cook calmly recited the operating characteristics of a pistol to his captor.
    Three years later, in December 1967, Cook died while being moved to another Viet Cong camp. His remains have never been recovered. Pentagon experts now believe he succumbed to malaria and malnutrition.
    After the war in Vietnam, though, there was some doubt as to whether Cook had died. As a result, the Corps kept him on active duty and promoted him regularly. Cook was a colonel when he was declared dead in February 1980.
    President Carter later approved a posthumous Medal of Honor for Cook.
    Today, the Corps presents the annual Donald G. Cook Award to its top active-duty or civilian intelligence professional. The Navy destroyer Donald Cook also sails in his honor.
    Fred L. Borch retired from the Army after 25 years and is the regimental historian for the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He is the author of “The Silver Star,” a history of America’s third highest award for combat heroism. His e-mail address is [email protected]. Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, lives in Oakton, Va. He is co-author of “Hell Hawks,” a history of an American fighter group. His e-mail address is [email protected].

    ...And shephards we shall be. For thee my lord, for thee. Power hath descended forth from thy hand. That our feet may swiftly carry out thy command. So we shall flow a river forth to thee. And teeming with souls shall it ever be. E Nomini Patri, E Fili, E Spiritu Sancti.

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