Medal of Honor





Rank and organization: Colonel, United States Marine Corps. Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam


Place and date: Vietnam, 31 December, 1964 to 8 December, 1967


Entered service at: Brooklyn, New York


Born: 9 August 1934, Brooklyn, New York




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 harsh treatment, 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. His personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyalty in the face of almost certain death reflected the highest credit upon Colonel Cook, the Marine Corps. and the United States Naval Service.


Thanks to Don Price, Colonel,USMC, Ret. <>for the above photo and the below information.

1956: Enlisted in USMCR at Brooklyn, New York

1957: Attended OCS at Quantico, Virginia

1 April 1957: Commissioned 2nd LT USMCR (Above Picture)

1 October 1958: Promoted to 1st LT USMCR

1 March 1962: Promoted to Captain USMC (Received Regular Commission)

31 December 1964: Captured in Vietnam at Binh Gia, Phuoc Tuy Province, III Corps

8 December 1967: Died while POW in Vietnam

1962-1980: Promoted with peers in interim to Colonel

26 February 1980: SECNAV declared him officially dead

16 May 1980: Medal of Honor presented by SECNAV Hidalgo to Next of Kin, Mrs. Laurette Giroux Cook (wife) in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon

His MOS (Military Occupation Speciality) was 2505, Communications Officer.

I received the following message on 9 February 2007:

Dear Neil,

You might be interested to know that I have written a biography about Colonel Donald Gilbert Cook. He was the first Marine captured in Vietnam, and the first and only Marine to ever earn the Medal of Honor in captivity. The USS DONALD COOK (DDG-75) was named in his honor. The ship’s motto epitomizes Cook’s life: Faith Without Fear.

Cook was captured on December 31, 1964, while serving as an observer with the Fourth Battalion (Killer Sharks) of Vietnamese Marines at the Battle of Binh Gia. The Viet Cong held cook in a series of primitive jungle POW camps. For nearly three years, Cook led ten fellow POWs in captivity, always looking out for their health and welfare, while complying with the spirit and intent of the Code of Conduct. He reportedly died on December 8, 1967, on a forced march to a new camp. Cook was declared officially dead in February 1980. His remains have never been recovered. His wife and four children survived him, as well as seven of his former POW comrades.

McFarland Publishing Company of Jefferson, NC, and London, UK, is publishing Cook’s biography. The title is The First Marine Captured in Vietnam; A Biography of Donald G. Cook. The book’s ISBN number is 078642804X. It may be ordered from McFarland’s website at More information about the book is on that site. The book may also be ordered from other websites, including and

Any profits that I might make from book sales will go toward the education of Colonel Cook’s ten grandchildren.

Thought you would like to know about this almost forgotten POW hero.

Semper Fidelis,

Donald L. Price
Colonel, USMC, Retired


--- General / Personal ---


Last name: COOK


Home of Record (official): NEW YORK

State (official): NY

Date of Birth: Thursday, August 9, 1934

Sex: Male

Race: Caucasian

Marital Status: Married


--- Military ---


Branch: Marine Corps

Rank: COL

Serial Number: 105263773

Component: Regular

Pay grade: O6

MOS (Military Occupational Specialty code): 2502


--- Action ---


Start of Tour: Thursday, December 31, 1964

Date of Casualty: Tuesday, February 26, 1980

Age at time of loss: 45

Casualty type: (A4) Hostile, died while captured

Reason: Unknown / Not reported (Ground casualty)

Country: South VietNam

Province: Phuoc Tuy

The Wall: Panel 01E - Row 080

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