Hot Springs World War II Hero Honored at U.S. Capitol
WASHINGTON – In the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday (April 12), Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) paid tribute to Hot Springs native Sergeant Jack Coleman Cook, who gave his life in order to save his crewmate after their plane went down in the frigid North Sea following a bombing raid over Berlin on February 3, 1945. Watching from the gallery as Westerman honored Cook was the man he saved, Navigator Edward Field of New York. Both were members of the 384th Bomb Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces.
Cook was a newlywed at the time of his death and had no children. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Hot Springs. His wife, Lucille Hutzell Cook Harmon, died March 25, 2011, in Beebe after remarrying. The congressman’s office has been unable to locate any relatives of Jack Coleman Cook prior to Thursday’s speech.
The full speech, as delivered, is below.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life of Sergeant Jack Coleman Cook of Hot Springs, Arkansas, for his heroic actions in World War II.
Sergeant Cook was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress, named the “Challenger.”
On February 3, 1945, the 384th Bomb Group participated in a mission over Berlin.
During the mission, the Challenger was hit by flak, damaging multiple engines, gas tanks, and the fuselage, but left the crew unharmed.
On the return journey home, the plane began losing altitude and crash-landed in the frigid North Sea. The crewmembers abandoned the aircraft and boarded two life rafts, but became separated.
Navigator Edward Field, a crew member who stayed in the water, began to push his raft toward the other raft, but became numb, and said that he could no longer hold on.
Sergeant Cook got into the water so the crew’s navigator could get out of the cold sea and take his spot in the raft. The sergeant then swam for forty-five minutes until they reached the second raft.
Shortly afterward, Air-Sea rescue located the crew, but Sergeant Cook had little life left in him, and he passed away on the boat.
It is with great gratitude and respect that I honor Jack Coleman Cook. Sergeant Cook is a true American hero. He selflessly gave his life for his fellow man, and for this, we remember him more than seventy years later.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back.