Donald Gilbert Cook MOH

b. 09/08/1834 Brooklyn, New York. d. 08/12/1967 Binh Ghia, Vietnam.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 31/12/1964 to 08/12/1967 Binh Ghia, Vietnam.

Donald G Cook MOH

Cook was born in Brooklyn, New York, in August 1934. He worked summers at a naval shipyard in college before graduating in 1956. Within a year, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve. Fluent in several languages, Cook worked in intelligence and interrogation for years before volunteering to go to Vietnam in December 1964.

Cook was in Vietnam for only 18 days when he was captured on Dec. 31, 1964. During the Battle of Binh Gia, he was shot and passed out from blood loss, so Viet Cong fighters took him prisoner. He and several other POWs were passed around to various primitive camps. During nearly three years of captivity, Cook took responsibility for the men around him, despite the harsher treatment brought upon him. He shared his food and small amounts of medicine with other prisoners and took care of them when they were struggling, despite his own deteriorating health due to exposure, deprivation, malnutrition and disease. Even then, Cook refused to stray from the U.S. Military Code of Conduct, despite enemy efforts to break his spirit.

Cook’s resolve in the face of certain death earned him the deepest respect of the POWs around him, as well as that of his captors. His loyalty and adherence to American values went well beyond what was expected of him, and they inspired his fellow POWs to endure and survive. The Viet Cong reported that Cook died of malaria in early December, 1967. He was 33 years old. For his intense ability to lead, resist and survive, Cook was awarded the Medal of Honor — the only Marine in history to earn it as a prisoner of war. His posthumous Medal of Honor was presented to his family by the Secretary of the Navy, Edward Hidalgo on 16 May 1980 at The Pentagon.

Cook continues to be revered to this day. In 1998, the Navy commissioned the USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer that was named in his honor.



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while interned as a Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 31 December 1964 to 8 December 1967. Despite the fact that by so doing he would bring about harsher treatment for himself, Colonel (then Captain) Cook established himself as the senior prisoner, even though in actuality he was not. Repeatedly assuming more than his share of responsibility for their health, Colonel Cook willingly and unselfishly put the interests of his comrades before that of his own well-being and, eventually, his life. Giving more needy men his medicine and drug allowance while constantly nursing them, he risked infection from contagious diseases while in a rapidly deteriorating state of health. This unselfish and exemplary conduct, coupled with his refusal to stray even the slightest from the Code of Conduct, earned him the deepest respect from not only his fellow prisoners, but his captors as well. Rather than negotiate for his own release or better treatment, he steadfastly frustrated attempts by the Viet Cong to break his indomitable spirit and passed this same resolve on to the men whose well-being he so closely associated himself. Knowing his refusals would prevent his release prior to the end of the war, and also knowing his chances for prolonged survival would be small in the event of continued refusal, he chose nevertheless to adhere to a Code of Conduct far above that which could be expected.