The Marine Corps Medal of Honor Recipients
Featuring Marine Medal of Honor Recipients From WWII-Korea-Viet Nam And Iraqi Freedom
DONALD G. COOK
Colonel Donald G. Cook
United States Marine Corps
The President of the United States in the name of Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while interned as a Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 31 December 1964 to 8 December 1967. Despite the fact that by so doing he knew he would bring about harsher treatment for himsself, Colonel (then Captain) Cook established himself as the senior prisoner, even though in actuality he was not. Repeatedly assuming more than his share of the manual labor in order that the other Prisoners of War could improve the state of their health, Colonel Cook willingly and unselfishly put the interests of his comrades before that of his own well-being and, eventually, his life. Giving more needy men his medicine and drug allowance while constantly nursing them, he risked infection from contagious deseases while in a rapidly deteriorating state of health. This unselfish and exemplary conduct, coupled with his refusal to stray even the slightest form the Code of Conduct, earned him the deepest respect from not only his fellow prisoners, but his captors as well. Rather than negotiate for his own release or better treatment, he steadfastly frustrated attempts by the Viet Cong to break his indomitable spirit, and passed this same resolve onto the men whose well-being he so closely associated himself. Knowing his refusals would prevent his release prior to the end of the war, and also knowing his chances for prolonged survival would be small in the event of his continued refusal, he choose nevertheless to adhere to a Code of Conduct far above that which could be expected. His personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyality in the face of almost certain death reflected the highest credit upon Colonel Cook, the Marine Corps, and the United States Naval Service.
President of the United States
Colonel Donald Gilbert Cook, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam while held prisoner by the Viet Cong from December 1964 to December 1967, was born 9 August 1934, in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Xavier High School in June 1952, then attended St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont, where he graduated in 1956.
Shortly after his December 1956 marriage to Miss Laurette A. Giroux at St. Anthony’s Church in Burlington, Vermont, Cook left Vermont for the Officers Candidate School at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, and was commissioned a second lieutenant, 1 April 1957.
He was promoted to first lieutenant 1 October 1958 while stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. In 1960 he attended Army Language School in Monterey, California, studying Chinese and graduated near the top of his class. 1stLt Cook was assigned to Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, in 1961 and was promoted to captain 1 March 1962.
In 1964 the Cook family returned to Vermont when Capt Cook was transferred to Okinawa. In December 1964, he was sent to Vietnam where he was captured by the Viet Cong on 31 December 1964 while serving as an advisor with a Vietnamese Marine battalion.
Captain Cook was in the vicinity of Benh Gia, Phouc Tuy Province, Republic of Vietnam, while participating as a Marine advisor to the South Vietnamese, and went to the site of a helicopter crash with a South Vietnamese unit to check for survivors. When the Viet Cong surrounded the area, he was shot in the leg while attempting to assist members of his unit to safety, and was then captured. He continued to receive promotions while interned as a Prisoner of War and his personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyalty during his three years of captivity resulted in his posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.
Mrs. Laurette A. Cook, widow of Colonel Cook, received the Medal of Honor on behalf of her husband 16 May 1980 during ceremonies at the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon. The Honorable Edward Hidalgo, Secretary of the Navy, presented the Medal to Mrs. Cook while Cook’s parents and four children looked on along with General Robert H. Barrow, Commandant of the Marine Corps
A list of Colonel Cook’s medals and decorations includes: the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart with one bronze star, the Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.