2nd Lt. Lawrence Cook

Memorial Service for Lawrence Cook

(Posted: January 28, 2012)

Today, January 28, a Memorial Service is being held for my Father’s pilot, Lawrence Cook.  I wish that California wasn’t so far away and that I could attend the service for my special friend.  I was pleased to be asked by his daughter, Laurel, if I would like to write something to be read at the service.  She said that she would be willing to read it.  It is the greatest honor for me to be included in the remembrance and celebration of the wonderful life of Pilot Cook.  Although I cannot be there physically, my thoughts and prayers are with my “extended family.”

“Our B-17 Pilot” – Lawrence Cook

(Posted: January 23, 2012)

After the holidays, I cleaned the pictures and the papers off of the side of the refrigerator like I do periodically and studied a photo that Lawrence Cook, my Father’s pilot, and my friend, had sent to me years ago.  It has always been a keeper when I was in this cleaning mode having a permanent home where it was visible.  Lawrence and I  talked by telephone quite often.  I’d call him and sometimes he’d call me and what a treat it was to talk with him.  He had told me about a group of ladies who he held Bible Study with and this photo was the picture of Lawrence and his group celebrating his 88th birthday.  It tells you about what kind of person he was.   This picture is a treasure just like his friendship was to me..

lawrencecook-group

Memories of B-17 Pilot Lawrence Cook

(Posted: January 4, 2012)

I’ve said that Dad’s Pilot, 2nd Lt. Lawrence H. Cook, was the only person that I’ve been able to locate who remembers my Father as a crew member or POW.  In talking about my Father on one occasion Lawrence told me that he remembered Dad as special.  He recalled him as a quiet and decent human being.  During another conversation, he referred to him as a “prince of a fellow.

I’m repeating myself I know but it really was special for me to meet my Father’s pilot, who himself was a decent human being as well as “a prince of a fellow.”  He had a concern about my Father not being able to get out of the ball turret in time to don his parachute.   Think of the chaos that Pilot Cook was experiencing at the time, but he kept a clear head in realizing that, with what was transpiring, his ball turret gunner may not be able to exit the turret if they were to lose power.  The parachute did not fit in the turret.   The Number 2 engine had been shot out and he was faced with trying to feather the engine before the propeller windmilled.  He told me that it could cut the plane in half if that happened.  He heard noises that sounded like ammunition going off in the plane and he realized that they were getting shot at by German fighters.   The fighters were trying to finish them off and Pilot Cook realized that they were doomed and the only option was to bail out!

There was no training that could possibly prepare these crews for the tragedies that would occur in combat.  If you were lucky, you could return to your base but you were a target and many of the targets were hit.  It was a tough role to be a Pilot and you wanted nothing better than to fly your missions unscathed.  You felt responsible for your crew and there were times when no matter how good you were, things happened that you could not control.  You wanted all of your men safe.  That’s all you could hope for if you had the misfortune of bearing the brunt of the attacks from the ground or in the air.  They were your men – your crew family.  The responsibility was great and you could only do what you could do as a human being.  Some things were out of your hands.  I know that 2nd Lt. Lawrence Cook was responsible for my Father being as safe as he could control by calling him out of that turret so he could climb into his parachute and prepare to bail out.

Our First Conversation!

(Posted: December 29, 2011)

Continued from previous post “Making the Connection!” . . . .

I received an email from Lawrence Cook’s daughter, Laurel, advising me that her Father would be pleased to talk with me.  As a matter of fact, she said that he had already tried to call me.  I was glad to hear that as it meant that he was as anxious to talk to me as I was to talk to him.

I made the phone call and introduced myself as Lawrence’s ball turret gunner, John Kyler’s, daughter.  It was such a pleasure to talk with this kind and patient person.  I really didn’t have to ask any questions as our conversation just flowed.  He proceeded to tell me about his training and how his wife, Lois, would go along with him and they’d rent a place off base.  He told me that he didn’t meet my Father until they trained together as a crew in Washington and Oregon and he remembered him as “a prince of a fellow.”  Lawrence shared his memories of many different areas of his wartime experience and I was so honored to meet him.  I absorbed all that he was telling me about the days of his past – a time that I was so interested in.

This first conversation was the beginning of a lengthy relationship with one of the most special people I will ever meet!

Making the Connection

(Posted: December 28, 2011)

Continued from previous post “Locating My Father’s Pilot” . . . . .

After I copied the information from Lawrence Cook’s daughter’s email, my first project the next morning was to try to contact the author of the email, Laurel Youde.  I called the operator and gave the name and Town of residence and was given the number.  Backing up a little, I failed to mention that the previous evening after locating the message, I sent an email to the address that was listed but it was returned.  I was afraid that would happen because after all it was written 6 years prior to the time I found it.

But, the email problem no longer mattered because I was able to get the telephone number for Laurel.  I called her after waiting until I thought it was late enough California time and she answered.  It was such a wonderful day for me, to talk to Dad’s Pilot’s daughter.  I told her that my Dad was the ball turret gunner on her Dad’s B-17.  We were so pleased to meet each other.  I think that Laurel was as excited as I was.  She told me that she would call her Father to make sure it was okay for me to contact him.  We exchanged our email addresses and I told her that I looked forward to hearing from her but also that I would understand if her Father didn’t wish to talk to me.  After all, I knew that I would have so many questions and it was obviously not an easy thing for any of those men to talk about.  It sounded from Laurel that her Father was as silent about his WWII experience as my Father was.  I was just so happy to have talked to her – to actually find a family member of Lawrence Cook – this man that I had been searching for for months!

Locating My Father’s Pilot!

(Posted: December 23, 2011)

It was in October, 2006, that I did what I had been doing every day since the date that my Father passed away, May 4, 2004.  I was entering different combinations of information and facts that I had obtained from my Father’s war records into the computer.  I remember that it was a Friday evening and it was quite late.  My husband and I  had been out to dinner and as always, before the days ended, I made the effort to try to locate a crew member or a room mate of my Father’s, someone who could share their memories of Dad during his wartime years by searching on the internet. 

I had the amazing good fortune of finding a guest book entry on the ‘merkki’ web site.  This web site has a wealth of information on Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany, the last camp that my Father was interned in.  And this web site was one of the first places that I located early on in my research.  I, had signed the guest book shortly after Dad died entering  facts that I had gathered.  Ironically, Laurel Youde, Lawrence Cook’s daughter, wrote the following message about her Dad . . . . . . . . .

“Name:  Laurel Youde (Lawrence Cook)
Sent: 10.42 – 12/26 2000
My father is Lawrence H. Cook a B-17 pilot, 92nd Bomb Group, 407 Air Force. He was shot down Feb 4, 1944, hidden by the underground in Belgium, and later captured. He spent 14 months in Stalag 1 North Compound. Does anyone remember him? He lives in California and is well.”

I could hardly believe my eyes absorbing intently the words that I was reading.  Laurel signed this guest book with the information that matched my Father’s pilot perfectly.  It had to be him!  I was  sure of it!  What a find!  It was too late to do anything about it at the moment but I knew the next morning that I would try to contact “our” pilot’s daughter.  Needless to say, I spent a sleepless night because I was so excited.  There was about 6 years difference between the time that Laurel had visited the “merkki” web site and my discovery of her entry and I hoped beyond all hope that I could find her and ultimately her Dad.

“A GOOD PILOT”

(Posted: December 12, 2011)

I learned today, December 12, of the passing of the last of my Father’s crew members and the only person that I’ve been able to locate who remembered my Dad from his wartime years.  2nd Lt. Lawrence Cook was my Father’s pilot, the only pilot he had ever flown with during WWII. 

 Following is a photo that I took in January, 2007, when my Mother, sister Dawn and I traveled to California to enjoy the pleasure of meeting my Dad’s pilot.  It is a treasured memory and another significant chapter in my book . . .

hpim2462_0

 As a Prisoner of War my Father wrote this poem entitled “A Good Pilot” . . . .

“A Pilot is a well-trained chauffeur  

And is bossed by the entire crew.

But when it comes to pinches

(He’ll tell you what to do.)

He keeps the plane in formation

Way up there in that blue

And when the fighters start coming in

He calls them off to you.

He sets up there so helpless

With no gun to fire back

But when it comes to courage

That’s something he doesn’t lack.

To him his crew’s welfare

Is foremost in his mind

And when it comes to bailing out

You can bet he’ll be last in line.”                                                                                                                                        

If it was not for Lawrence Cook, I would not be writing this today as it is likely that my Father would not have survived the War.  Lawrence called my Father out of his position in the ball turret after their doomed bomber had been hit to make sure that he could put on his parachute.  He was afraid that if they lost electricity he would not be able to get out of the turret.   The parachute did not fit in the turret with the ball turret gunner.   Pilot Cook did not see himself as the hero that he was.  I feel so honored to have met him to be able to thank him personally not only for saving my Father’s life but for his service to his Country.  He was so humble and and one of the kindest and sweetest people that I have ever met.  I called him my Father #2.  What an incredible feeling it was to meet him knowing that he and my Father had flown missions and shared a frightening and life-changing experience together.  I am so blessed to have gotten to know him and to be able to visit with him not only about wartime experiences but about life and the things that are important.  Lawrence taught the Bible from the time he was a young man and he led an exemplary life.  I only wish that he and my Father would have reunited after the war and that I could have met him sooner.  I loved him from the first moment that he took the time to talk to me.  His health has not been good for quite some time and I have missed our conversations but I will never forget the last time that we talked.  I knew in my heart that it would be the last time and I could tell that he thought the same.  We both told each other how happy that we were to have met.  I told him for one last time that I loved him like a Father and that he was my adopted “Father Number 2.”   He, also, had included me as an adopted daughter.   His family has been like extended family to me.  Our Father’s shared so much together that it took so many years for us to learn about.   My friendship with my Father’s pilot has been a highlight in my life that I will never forget.  I wanted to find someone who remembered my Father and could tell me about him during that lifetime that I knew so little about and he not only remembered Dad but he saved his life!  God bless them as they meet again!

Lawrence H. Cook’s obituary can be found at this link:

http://www.hidesertstar.com/obituaries/article_f83f60ae-25f6-11e1-b9a4-0019bb2963f4.html?mode=story

Pilot Cook and his crew are also remembered at: www.evasioncomete.org.  Lawrence Cook, as well as three of his crew members were helped by the members of the Comete Escape Line to evade capture.  Milo Blakely and Thomas Mikulka both made it successfully back to England.  Lawrence and John Booth were helped until they were arrested by the Germans.  The brave Belgian patriots hid them from February 4, 1944, the date they were shot down, until March 28, 1944.