Wayne Oliver Cook (Sr.)

1929 - 1995

Korean WarWWII

Their Story

Wayne Oliver Cook was a Staff Sergeant in the USAF. He was a part of many flying missions, including the Berlin Airlift “Operation Vittles” during WWII and was assigned to the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War. He was Honorably Discharged in 1955. He returned to Iowa where he married, had 5 children and 11 grandchildren. He remained in Iowa until his death in 1995.

Wayne Oliver Cook was born on December 19, 1929, in Davenport, Iowa to Wesley and Alice Cook.[1] Growing up he and his sister were avid equestrians. He loved sports, photography, and music. He attended Davenport (Central) High School where he participated in athletics and sang in the Advance Chorus.

At 17-years old, Cook enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, one week before the US Air Force was established.[2] He left Iowa to attend Basic Training at Lackland Air Base in San Antonio, Texas on September 11, 1947. He soon qualified as a top expert sharpshooter with a .45 caliber pistol.[3]

Upon completion of basic training, Private First-Class Cook was assigned to Greenville Air Force Base in Greenville, South Carolina, stationed with the 9th Air Force, 316th Troop Carrier Group. He trained with C-47 and C-5 aircraft and was promoted to Corporal. Due to acute appendicitis, he was on convalescent furlough from June to August 1948.[4] He returned to duty where he was chosen to attend Aerial Photography School at Lowery Field in Denver, Colorado.[5] Soon after, however, photography school was canceled and Cook was sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where he was then transported by ship to Rhein Main Airbase in Frankfort, Germany.

Cook, Wayne O, 1952, March AFB (photo credit: unknown. Photo courtesy Cook Family Archives)

Cook was stationed with the 61st Troop Carrier Group and was assigned to the Berlin Airlift Operation Vittles. He was promoted to Sergeant in May 1949.[6] While in Germany, Cook was able to continue to participate in athletics as a member of the Rhein Main Rockets football team. His family also has a collection of photographs he took at several locations around Germany, including Rhein Main AFB and Berchtesgaden. In May 1950, Cook returned to the United States and was Honorably Discharged from service.

This did not last for long, however. In January 1951 Cook re-enlisted in the USAF in order to maintain his rank of Sergeant. He reported to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, and was promoted to Staff Sergeant. In Omaha he was able to continue to be active in baseball and softball. From Omaha he was assigned to March Air Force Base in California. In May 1952, Cook arrived at the Yokota Air Force base in Tokyo, Japan.[7] In a letter home to his mother, he reported that he would be “flying back and forth to Korea” with the 67th Technical Reconnaissance Squadron.[8] He spent the next year in Japan at HQ of the Far East Air Forces (FEAF) Bomber Command.

Reconnaissance photograph Mt. Fuji, Japan. (photo credit: S/Stg. Wayne O. Cook. Photo courtesy Cook Family Archives.)

In 1953, Cook was assigned to the Strategic Air Command[9] at March Air Force Base in California. During rest and relaxation, Cook also enjoyed being a racecar driver and worked as an extra in Hollywood movies starring John Wayne & Montgomery Clift. Cook remained with Strategic Air Command at March Air Force Base until his Honorable Discharge from the USAF in 1955.[10]

He returned to Walcott, Iowa, and married Katharine Duffy on November 19, 1960.[11] He had five children, four boys and one girl, during his marriage. He was Commander of the Walcott American Legion, a member of the Walcott Volunteer Fire Department, and worked at the Rock Island Arsenal.

In 1976, after being diagnosed with diabetes, he moved his family to a small farm outside of Tipton, Iowa. He died of complications to diabetes and a series of strokes on January 25, 1995, at the age of 65. Cook was interred in burial at the National Cemetery at the Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island, Illinois on January 30, 1995.[12]


[1] Ancestry

[2] Army Air Corps Library and Museum

[3] Cook Family Archives

[4] The Daily Times

[5] Cook Family Archives

[6] Cook Family Archives

[7] The Quad-City Times

[8] Cook Family Archives

[9] Strategic Air Command

[10] Cook Family Archives

[11] Cook Family Archives