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.

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