This is the ninth post in a series about my Grandma's cousin, Lawrence Gilbert Cook.
Gil Cook's plane went down over Burma on October 28, 1943. His mother and the families of the other eight crew members spent many months searching for answers about what happened to the plane and their loved ones. One full year later, in October of 1944, the War Department officially declared Gil Cook dead.
29 October 1944
Dear Mrs. Rutherfurd,
Since your son, Second Lieutenant Lawrence G. Cook, 0735053, Air Corps, was reported missing in action 28 October 1943, the War Department has entertained the hope that he survived and that information would be revealed dispelling the uncertainly surrounding his absence. However, as in many case, the conditions of warfare deny us such information. The record concerning your son show that he was a crew member of a B-24 Liberator bomber and that he participated in a mission to Toungoo, Burma, which is approximately fifty miles north of Rangoon, on 28 October 1943. His plane exploded in midair and went down in the target area.
Full consideration has recently been given to all available information bearing on the absence of your son, including all records, reports and circumstances. These have been carefully reviewed and considered. In view of the fact that twelve months have now expired without the receipt of evidence to support a continued presumption of survival, the War Department must terminate such absence by a presumptive finding of death. Accordingly, an official filing of death has been recorded under the provisions of Public Law 490, 77th Congress, approved March 7, 1942, as amended.
The finding does not establish an actual or probable date of death; however, as required by law, it includes a presumptive date of death for the termination of pay and allowances, settlement of accounts and payment of death gratuities. In the case of your son, this date has been set as 29 October 1944, the day following the expiration to twelve months' absence.
I regret the necessity for this message but trust that the ending of a long period of uncertainty may give at least some small measure of consolation. I hope you may find sustaining comfort in the thought that the uncertainty with which war has surrounded the absence of your son has enhanced the honor of his service to his country and of his sacrifice.
s/ J.A. Ulio
The Adjutant General
In December of 1944, Gil Cook was awarded a posthumous Purple Heart for his service. Gil's mother, Magdalene Rutherfurd, received the following letter from the War Department informing her of the award.
December 13, 1944
My dear Mrs. Rutherfurd,
At the request of the President, I write to inform you that the Purple Heart has been awarded posthumously to your son, Second Lieutenant Lawrence G. Cook, Air Corps, who sacrificed his life in defence of his country.
Little that we can do or say will console you for the death of your loved one. We profoundly appreciate the greatness of your loss, for in a very real sense the loss suffered by any of us in this battle for our country is a loss shared by all of us. When the medal, which you will shortly receive, reaches you, I want you to know that with it goes my sincerest sympathy, and the hope that time and the victory of our cause will finally lighten the burden of your grief.
s/ Henry L. Stimson
A letter followed from the Army Air Forces.
My dear Mrs. Rutherfurd:
With keen regret I have learned that an official determination has been made of the death of your son, Second Lieutenant Lawrence Gilbert Cook, who has been missing in action since October 28, 1943, in the Asiatic Area.
Word has come to me that Lieutenant Cook was a conscientious and dependable cadet who developed into an officer of real worth. he made the most of his opportunities throughout training and graduated from the Advanced Flying School at Douglas, Arizona, with a commission and rating of pilot. His sportsmanlike attitude and willingness to cooperate to the best of his ability marked him as a valuable airman.
Your son made a fine contribution toward the furtherance of our cause and sacrificed his life bravely. May your pride in him comfort you in your bereavement.
I offer my deep sympathy to you and other members of the family.
s/ H. H. Arnold
General, U.S. Army,
Commanding General, Army Air Forces
In addition to the Purple Heart, Gil was posthumously awarded the Air Medal "for meritorious achievement by participating as pilot from 13 June to 27 September 1943 in heavy bombardment missions totaling more than one hundred hours during which exposure to enemy fire was probable and expected. These flights, in which he has flown from bases in India, over Burma, Thailand, and the Andaman Islands, have been eminently successful."
At the time of the declaration of Gil's death and the awards bestowed upon him, Magdalene Rutherfurd was living with her husband and daughter in Henderson, Nevada. For unknown reasons, the War Department misdirected much of their communication to her to Redwood City, California. Magdalene wrote to the War Department, asking that they correct her address and please send the Air Medal to Nevada, not California. After a long and painful year, there was finally an official resolution for Magdalene and the families of the other missing airmen.