HOT SPRINGS, Ark — We are learning more about a World War II hero from Arkansas, who gave his life saving his comrades after their plane went down.
We first told you about Jack Cook in April. Those familiar with his story couldn’t find any of his living relatives.
But Cook’s family reached out to us after the story aired and got us in touch with one of his nieces.
Tucked deep in pages of photo albums are stories and pictures of a man Delia McBride never got a chance to meet.
Her late uncle, Jack Cook, who she’s been told her whole life …
“He’s a hero,” said McBride.
Cook was a Sergeant in the Air Force from Hot Springs.
“I am learning about the Ball Torrent on a B-17,” McBride added.
McBride shares a letter Cook wrote home to his parents, excited about his job. It’d be one of the last letters the family would get from him.
In February 1945, Cook was part a crew of soldiers from the Army Air Corps, flying back to base after a bombing raid over Germany, when their damaged B-17 went down in open water.
“They can’t total the number …” said McBride.
McBride reads part of a newspaper clipping that said when one of two heavily damaged lifeboats failed, Cook jumped in freezing waters and acted as a propeller … pushing the other lifeboat, filled with his fellow soldiers, to safety.
Jack’s comrades survived, but he did not. He was just 19-years-old.
“I’ve always looked to him and thought .. he’s a special man,” continued McBride.
His sacrifice was remembered in Washington, D.C. last month, when Cook’s former airmate, Edward Field, told how Cook actually gave up his seat on the raft for him.
“Had a wonderful life and it’s because of him,” said Field.
It’s an act of bravery that Arkansas 4th District Congressman Bruce Westerman shared with the House floor.
“Sergeant Cook is a true American hero. He selflessly gave his life for his fellowman and for this we remember him more than 70 years later,” said Westerman.
Although he never returned home, Jack Cook will forever be a legend in Arkansas.
“I’m extremely proud of him and I know when I get to Heaven I will meet him,” said McBride.
Jack Cook’s parents and siblings, who have all passed away, received medals given to him after his death.
McBride said they were stolen from her home in 1995. But good news … she’s working with Congressman Westerman to replace the stolen medals and to add Sgt. Jack Cook’s name to a veterans memorial in Hot Springs.