Gil Cook's B-24 Liberator went down over Burma on October 28, 1943. He was 25 years old. In the agonizing year that followed, accusations of a cover-up were lobbied while the War Department searched for answers in the friendly fire incident. In the end, Purple Hearts and Air Medals were distributed and the families of the nine men killed that day were left to live with their loss.
There were no bodies to send home in flag-draped coffins; no sons to bury in hometown graveyards. The sole memorial for Gil Cook is located in The Philippines, at the American Memorial Cemetery in Manila. It's located on the site of the former Fort William McKinley and was dedicated in 1960.
The cemetery consists of a large graveyard filled with neat, white crosses. Beyond them is a memorial chapel flanked by two hemicycles of stone walls. Within these walls are mosaics detailing the various battles and campaigns in the Pacific Theater during World War II, along with the inscribed names of the dead and missing. In the western hemicycle can be found the lists of the missing, divided by branch of armed services.
HERE ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY
AND SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES
Gil's name can be found under United States Army and Army Air Forces. My brother visited this cemetery several years ago and took some photos of the site. They are below.
Gil's story has resonated with me since I first heard it as a teenager. He was 25 at the time of his death; just at the beginning of life. That the facts of his death over Burma are so particularly tragic and senseless only compounds the loss. What would this young man have done with his life, had he lived? In the end, all I can do is memorialize Gil here and ask that he be remembered.
Lawrence Gilbert Cook
Born July 24, 1918 in Los Angeles
Died October 28, 1943 over Burma