Orrin Venton Cook
his son Ed Cook
Orrin V. Cook Advance Pilot Graduation
Ellington Field, Texas
March 20, 1943
Cook was born on July 23, 1922 I Alexis, IL, to the parents Edward Cook and
Fannie McBride Cook. At his birth,
Fannie was 48 and Edward was 61 years old, and Orrin would be their last of 15
total children. The Cook children spanned 32 years, and Fannie and Edward were
rare in that they reared one son that served in WWI and two sons that served in
WWII. Due to the advanced age of both of
his parents, and the Great Depression about to occur, Orrin and his closest
brother Charlie were raised
primarily by other older siblings and friends.
and Fannie Cook
school years found him living with friends, milking cows, and playing six man
football for the Sherrard
High School Tigers.
Chosen as center for the team, in those years Orrin also went out for forward
passes and became a noted receiver. Immediately after high school Orrin
accepted a job as a physical science aid at the Rock Island Arsenal. Life was good then, with a good job and
finally a place of his own. That of
course was all to change with the advances of Hitler in Europe,
and the Japanese in the Pacific. As most
men his age, Orrin was eager to serve, especially in the air.
of Pearl Harbor found Orrin in the Army
at Jefferson Barracks, MO. After air school, Orrin did his primary at Bonham Field, TX, and his
advanced training at Ellington Field,
TX. Chosen and selected for medium bombers, Orrin
was sent to Columbia, SC for transition to the B-25. His older brother Charlie, then in the tank
destroyer part of the army was soon to follow Orrin into flight school and
eventually into B-25s as well.
From Columbia, SC Orrin was
sent to the Pacific via trains to San Francisco,
a Liberty Ship to Honolulu,
and flying a B-25 island to eventually end up in Brisbane, Australia. In Brisbane
the “25” and his crew waited for orders alone for about two weeks, when into
the field lands a Colonel. The Colonel
inquired as what the B-25 and the crew was doing in Brisbane.
“Waiting for orders, sir” was the response. “Well you gentlemen just got your orders, get
that B-25 and yourselves to Port
Arriving Port Moresby Orrin was
assigned to the 500th bomb squadron as co-pilot of the B-25 “SNAFU II”. On Dec.
22, 1942 and in his third mission over Wewak, New Guinea, SNAFU II received a
20mm shell through the control panel removing bits of several fingers and
making a ghastly wound to Orrin’s face. The concussion knocked the pilot
unconscious for a short while as Orrin flew on the mission in spite of his
wounds. The pilot eventually regained
consciousness to toggle the bombs away over the target and resume command of
the aircraft. Away from the target area,
the pilot directed Orrin out of the co-pilot’s seat and the crew chief into the
co-pilot’s seat. Orrin’s wounds were
attended by other crewman as best as possible, but he was still losing a lot of
blood. On the way back to Port Moresby, the pilot
wisely diverted to Nadzab so that Orrin could be looked after by the field
hospital there. Due to the blood loss,
Lt. Cook went unconscious for three days.
the field hospital on December 25, 1944 the orderly asked Lt. Cook if he felt
OK, and weather he was up to some Christmas “Cheer”. Orrin replied “Sure, what do you have? “Medical alcohol and grapefruit juice” was
the reply, and my father and the orderly toasted the birthday of Christ as best
they could. From Nadzab Orrin was air
evacuated to Brisbane, then to Honolulu,
on to San Francisco, and eventually to Springfield, MO. Springfield
was the home of the giant hospital where wounded soldiers from both theaters
were sent for surgery and rehabilitation.
At each stop, the only questions was “Do you think you can handle the
next flight leg?” Orrin was airlifted
out of the jungle in Nadzab, New Guinea to Springfield, MO in a matter of
days. At Springfield, MO
Orrin started what was to turn out to be three years of surgery and
rehabilitation. Rebuilding facial
structures and plastic surgery in general were quite new at the time.
efforts in completing the mission on Dec. 22, 1942 Lt. Orrin V. Cook was
awarded and Silver Star for bravery, and of course, the Purple Heart for the
attendant wounds. As with most men his
age he was mustered out of the Army Air Corp around VJ day, but not before
meeting Meriam Wood, a volunteer in one of the many hospitals during his
recovery. Meriam and Orrin were wed in Ohio in June on 1946,
his bother and fellow B-25 pilot Captain Charlie Cook as his best man.
attended the University of Illinois, majoring in Industrial Engineering. His
studies were curtailed by the start of the family and the need for a job. The family soon found themselves in Cleveland, Ohio
with Orrin working in the industrial engineering department for Gibson Greeting
Cards. There in Cleveland both sons Jeffery A. and Edward J.
Cook were born. During the next 20 years
the family moved to Racine,
WI where Orrin was employed as an
industrial engineer in the foundry industry.
After both sons were in college, Orrin retired from the foundry industry
and traveled the United States
for a year settling in Apache Junction, Arizona. Bored and in need of supplemental retirement
income, Orrin secured a job in the Civil Engineering squadron on Williams Air
Force base, where he retired again after five years. He enjoyed being around undergraduate pilot
candidates again after the 35 year absence, and in many ways these five years
were the best of his civilian career.
Meriam spent the next few years in a pleasant retirement until Meriam’s passing
in November of 1984. After the passing
of his wife of 38 years, Orrin traveled
a bit visiting the dock in San Francisco where he embarked a Liberty Ship for
Hawaii and the war, and the hospital in Missouri where he spent time in
rehabilitation. Orrin eventually built a remote homestead in Florence, AZ where he lived a quite remainder
of his life, and eventually passed away in January of 1996. Orrin is survived by his two sons, and three
grandchildren, Evan, Brian and Alice Cook.