In Remembrance of Roger Cook
Captain Roger Cook
(In his own words)
Original Ugly Angel
Flew 503 Missions - 26 Air Medals
Flew H-34 with Air America® 1971-1973
Flew Commercial with
707, 727, DC-8
Roger was a vital part of the YL-37 Flying Memorial. He provided historical information about both the squadron and the aircraft. He attended the dedication service held in October 1999 and spoke at the Veteran's Park ceremony in Tulsa, Oklahoma the following year, marking the beginning of the aircraft's historic Washington DC visit to the "Wall" and the Quantico visit pictured in the Leather Neck Magazine.
Roger flew with YL-37 on a "school mission" where he shared his infamous water buffalo story with the students at Sequoyah School in Claremore, Oklahoma. Roger attended the annual Labor Day Cheyenne/Arapaho powwow in Colony, Oklahoma, with other members of the Ugly Angels as honored guest of Little Man's.
Roger was a good man, a good friend, a good Marine and will always remain in the hearts of those who knew him.
Message from Gary Doos
The Memorial Service For Roger Cook
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio, TX
February 3, 2003
It was an unseasonably warm day in the San Antonio area. Angels, Friends, and Family joined their hearts together to share the burden of sorrow and to offer their last memories, to honor a great American hero, Roger Cook. The beautifully manicured marble garden sat silently at attention. Thousands of white stones stood at well-tended, measured distances each marking the final resting place of another defender of America.
Sam Houston National Cemetery was a fitting final resting place for heroes such as Roger. Only a short distance away is the Alamo where, in 1836, a menagerie of men, knowing their fate, had willingly crossed the line drawn in the sand by Col. Travis to make a stand for freedom.
Beneath the canopy of the open-air chapel on the grounds, the solemn ceremony began with a call to ready for the rifle team to fire the salute. As the report of the volley concluded, the lonely sound of "Taps" being trumpeted loud and clear filled the silence and drifted over the field of stone.
As the notes faded away, the presentation of the flag was made. Then his friends and Marines, both old and new, made personal tributes to Roger. Stories of Roger often brought a tear but just as often, laughter was heard in the crowd as Roger's exploits were remembered.
Roger's last flight in an H-34 was on 30 August 2001 when he participated on a mission with the Flying Memorial Group. Roger was 1/8 Cherokee Indian and that weekend with the group, he made a connection with a portion of his culture. Near the close of the service Ms. Hail gave this tribute which was followed by a tape of Amazing Grace sung in the Cherokee language. It was a very moving and fitting tribute.
TRIBUTE TO ROGER
O si yo - Hello
My name is Lillie Hail and I have the honor and privilege to travel thru out Oklahoma with my husband Gerald, Oklahoma's treasure the FLYING MEMORIAL YL-37 and the UGLY ANGELS OF HMM-362.
From my Cherokee/Creek mother and great grandfather (who by the way didn't speak English) but read the Cherokee Bible faithfully. I learned these words.
Our father, (who is in heaven) heaven dweller, we call on you today, our father to be with Rogers's family, friends and to
all gathered here as we pay our respect and say our goodbye to Roger.
When the call went out to join the YL-37 Group in a special event, he was there. Be it an interview, visiting a school to share a story like the one we just heard from Jack Lodge or joining a dance around the drum, he was there.
To the various events he was always enthusiastic and had a happy heart.
The last trip to Oklahoma was a special trip for him as it was for us. He enjoyed going to Tahlequah during the time of the fall festival, where the Cherokee Tribe, young and old come together as a nation of proud people to meet old acquaintances and reminisce about families and times gone by, to play games and dance around the drum. Roger said he was connecting with his Cherokee Indian roots.
A Cherokee Warriors Memorial is being built in Tahlequah this spring and will have a special brick with Roger's name.
As we express our sadness at the loss of a special angel may all be comforted in the knowledge that he is but on another journey with you our father.
Till we meet again in heaven, I will finish by saying,
Do Na do go hvi
Until we meet again.
Roger Cook - The "Infamous" Water Buffalo Story
As told by Roger Cook
Written by Gunny Sachs
Read by Jack Lodge
February 3, 2003
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio, TX
Close your eyes for a moment, and travel with me back to the springtime of 1966. Recall the images of that era: Lyndon Johnson in the White House, Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights, and a new issue of Life Magazine on the stand each week.
One of the lasting mental pictures of the period is a battered Sikorsky helicopter carrying a bewildered, terrified water buffalo in a cargo net suspended beneath it as it flew over the verdant wet rice paddies and reddish brown rivers. American Marines working to win the hearts and minds of Vietnamese peasants.
This is the rest of the story.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jim Aldworth had led the Marines of Helo Squadron 362 from California to Vietnam in mid-1965, and the ensuing months were nothing if not filled with what we have come to refer to as "learn-ing experiences," those events and mishaps that we promise never NEVER to let happen again. One involved the unfortunate premature death of a mangy old water buffalo in the village of
Tam Ky. Whether the animal was hit by a Jeep, rammed by a six-by, or shot by an eager Marine mistaking it for the enemy, is lost to history. All we are sure of is that the poor beast was on its way to the great grazing ground in the sky.
Some enterprising sort - perhaps the Public Information Officer of MAG-36 -- got the idea that it would endear the Marines to the residents of Tam Ky if they would arrange to replace the water buffalo. A water buffalo is as essential to the life of a Vietnamese town as the general store is to the United States: it pulls a plow to grow the rice, fathers cows for milk and butter, and -- after years of doing that, provides beef and leather for food and shoes. So the Marines went into the little hamlet outside the wire at Ky Ha and purchased a bullock. Roger Cook, who had experience in both the cowboy country of Colorado and the rich ranchland of Texas, was selected to head the team to replace the deceased critter. Phil Turner, a farmer from Iowa and a couple of lance corporals took charge of leading the beast back to the flight line.
Arriving on the marston matting in Ky Ha, Ferdinand the Bull was docile. "How ya gonna get him in the chopper, lieutenant?" several troops inquired.
"Not a problem, boys. I'm on top of it," Roger explained. "It's just like gettin' him into a cattle truck." He and a couple of guys from maintenance put together a ramp, and as Roger held a bucket of grain in front of it, the animal walked into the belly of the bird just as smooth and happy as could be. Old Willy the Water Buffalo looked around, bored. The crew chief -- it may have been Dick Houghton -- attached a couple of chains across the open door, and sidled past the hind quarters to fire up the APU.
After a few final words with the Operations Duty Officer to as-sure things were set at the other end, Roger climbed up into the H-34 and Jack Lodge strapped into the left seat. By now the half-ton bovine had become so bored that he decided to take a nap. Somewhere in the archives of the United States Marine Corps, there is a faded black-and-white photograph of the Ugly
Angels H-34 number YL 53, Roger Cook grinning like a pig in dirt, with a sleeping water buffalo clearly visible at the knees of the crew chief. Even the roar of the powerful Pratt and Whitney radial engine coming to life failed to disturb the bull's reveries.
Perhaps the air rushing through the crew compartment inter-rupted the animal's dreams. Perhaps the dip of hitting an air pocket jolted it awake. Perhaps its ears popped as the helicopter gained altitude. We'll never know. But this water buffalo woke, took one look out the crew door, saw that the pasture it longed for was now twenty-five hundred feet below, and
absolutely freaked out. It bellowed with a roar from the depths of hell, and recoiled backward to the port side of the helo. This. Of course, caused the aircraft to lurch into a left bank, "What the hell was that?" hollered Roger, struggling to regain control of the copter. As if on cue, the water buffalo moved forward, throwing YL 53 into a shallow dive. "Houghton! Get that beast under control before we crash!"
The next few seconds of chaos were mercifully ended when the crew chief, seizing the situation as only a Marine can, whipped out his .45 caliber Colt M1941A1, and -- waiting until the beast was right at the center of gravity -- dispatched the animal be-tween the eyes; it collapsed.
As they began to get their heart rate under control, and as they began the final approach to the Tam Ky, Roger and Jack realized they now faced a diplomacy problem.
Tam Ky is the capital of Quang Nam province. A wealthy town during the French Colonial period, it features a long green town plaza, lined with palm trees and punctuated by flower gardens, leading to a colonial capitol building. In front of the capital was a small brass band in white uniforms, a formation of village elders in formal attire - long coats and ummerbunds,
the mayor adorned with a sash across his breast. It was evident that this was the biggest event in the political life of Tam Ky in a long time.
Roger landed, quickly kicked the dead animal out of the helicopter, immediately took off, and climbed to altitude. The whole thing took maybe twelve seconds.
Three days later, as Roger was returning to the tent that served as the Ugly Angels' Ready Room, he was told to report without delay to the Group Commander's office. Don't change your clothes, don't shave, just get your duff up there most skosh. He hurried.
He hammered on the pine and was told to enter. The colonel stood behind his desk. Beside the desk stood an entourage of four Vietnamese. The sergeant major looked stern; the colonel spoke. "Mayor Cao, this is First Lieutenant Cook. Lieutenant, this gentleman is Mayor Nguyen Lan Cao of Tam Ky. He wishes to speak to us, and thought it appropriate that you hear what he has to say."
In halting and broken English, but with undiminished dignity, the mayor alternated eye contact with the colonel and Cook. "Is ve-ry generous of American Marines to offer to village of Tam Ky replacement of old, decrepit carabao sadly killed by Marines by young and strong water buffalo. Is sad, however. Village hoped the replacement of old dead water buffalo would be a living water buffalo, rather than young dead animal."
Always thinking, Roger saw the light go on over his head. He broke the position of attention, rose his arms in a gesture of victory, and leaped into action. "A living buffalo? They wanted a living one? Hell, colonel, we can do that! We must have mis-understood! We can take care of this with no problem!"
Well they did. But never again did a Marine pilot carry a living farm animal that size inside a helicopter. The world's lasting image of Marines winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese -- a water buffalo suspended beneath an H-34 -- was the result of Roger Cook's harrowing experience in the air, and his quick thinking under the scrutinizing eyes of an angry colonel.