Friday, March 14, 2014

Gil Cook: Missing In Action

This is the fourth post in a series about my Grandma's cousin, Lawrence Gilbert Cook.

On October 28, 1943, Gil's plane went down over Burma.  His mother, Magdalene Barrett Rutherfurd, received a telegram reporting him missing on November 3, 1943.

In a world before the internet, 24-hour cable news, embedded reporters and even reliable international phone service, it took a full week after the incident for Magdalene to be informed that her son was missing.  In fact, he was not missing.  He and all the men on his plane were dead, which everyone in his unit knew, some of them having witnessed the plane's accident.  However, it would take many months and a lot of anguished questions from the airmen's families before the truth would come to light.

We don't know who first learned that Gil's plane had been brought down by another plane in his unit.  The fiancee of the plane's pilot petitioned her congressman for answers.  The other families wrote letters to the war department.  I've always heard that it was a friend of my grandfather Glenn Smith who told the family the truth, since that friend was also stationed in India and rumor had spread on the base.  In November 1943, however, there were only the following words.

The Secretary of War desires me to express his regret that your son Second Lieutenant Lawrence G. Cook has been reported missing in action over Burma since twenty eight October.  If further details or other information of his status are received you will be promptly notified.

In the meantime, a mother waited, not knowing what had happened to her only son.

To be continued....

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