H. John Cook Military Report

©2016 Lori Cook-Folger, CG

H. John Cook photograph, c. 1956–1957; copy of original, privately held by Lori Cook-Folger, [address for private use,] North Carolina, 2002.
DATE: 6 April 2016
REPORT TO: Personal Files
SUBJECT: H. John Cook, 1936–2005
OBJECTIVE: Extract details from Navy personnel file of John Cook and research the operations he participated in.

 

RESEARCH SUMMARY

Hubert John Cook served in the U.S. Navy from 2 February 1954 until 19 June 1957. He served three years, four months, and twelve days with one year, six months, and twenty-seven days of sea service. He was assigned to the USS Curtiss and participated in the following operations:

  • Operation Redwing, atomic testing in the Pacific.
  • Operation Deep Freeze II, support of the scientists in the Antarctic.

RESEARCH FINDINGS

Personal Interviews and U.S. Navy Personnel Records.

My dad, Hubert John Cook, enlisted in the Navy on 2 February 1954, in Lubbock, Texas.[1] He tried to join earlier but did not weigh enough and was told to go home and eat bananas. John rode the “TNMO” (Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma) Bus Line to Amarillo where he had his physical. He was then put on a train and arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico the next morning. It was there that he was sworn in and given his service number. He rode a train to San Diego, California. After arriving, the men were sent to the Naval Training Center on gray buses. He was issued one hat, chambray shirt, two pairs of jeans, and two pairs of shoes. After about ten weeks, he was issued his dress uniform and received one day off. He was at the Training Center for 13 weeks and then was given 20 days leave. With a round-trip bus ticket from the Navy, he went back to Lubbock before reporting for duty. His pay was $72 per month.[2]

John was advanced from Seaman Recruit to Seaman Apprentice on 29 April 1954. He was at to the Naval Air Technical Training Unit (NATTU) in Olathe, Kansas from 16 July 1954 until transferred to the U.S.S. Curtiss, in San Diego, on 18 November 1955.[3] NATTU was part of the Olathe Naval Air Station, which was a combat pilot training center from WWII through the Vietnam era.[4]

Continuous sea tour was to begin in December 1955. The USS Curtiss (AV–4) was a seaplane tender, meaning it supported the operation of seaplanes. They did not have flight decks and used cranes to lower aircraft into the water.[5] The Curtiss made a trip to Acapulco, Mexico, 19 through 30 January 1956.[6] John drove the captain’s gig when officer’s needed to go ashore. Lieutenant, Jr. Grade (LtJg) James E. Fitzgerald was one of those officers. He was the uncle of Rock Hudson who was in Acapulco with his wife, Phyllis. John took him ashore to pick up Rock Hudson.

John went AWOL the following February to get married.[7] He hitchhiked to Lubbock and back to San Diego. For “absenting himself from the USS Curtiss” from 11–17 February 1956, he was “to perform hard labor for 45 days without confinement and to forfeit $40.00 per month for one month.”[8]

John was honorably discharged 19 June 1957. He always remembered his days in the Navy fondly and encouraged his grandsons to join the military. He thought it was the best thing a young man could do.

USS Curtiss, c. 1956, NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive (http://www.navsource.org : accessed 7 February 2011).

 

Operations Participated In

Operation Redwing.

John participated in Operation Redwing, 21 March–8 August 1956. It was a series of seventeen-detonation atmospheric nuclear weapon tests held at the Atomic Energy Commission’s Pacific Proving Ground. It was mainly to test high-yield thermonuclear devices that could not be tested in Nevada.[9] The Pacific Proving Ground (PPG) was in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. The tests were mostly in the northwestern islands of Enewetak and Bikini atolls.

“The USS Curtiss was part of the Special Devises Unit, carrying a number of devices from the United States to the PPG and to provide shipboard assembly facilities for the experimental devices. The Curtiss also served as the Bikini weather reporting station and a personnel decontamination station. The Curtiss and its 564-man crew arrived at the PPG on 10 April and departed 26 July. Operational activities of the seventeen tests:

  1. LaCrosse (Enewetak, 5 May 0625). Anchored, Bikini, saw flash of light on horizon.
  2. Cherokee (Bikini, 21 May, 0551). In operation area; at 0550 all hands face aft and donned high-density goggles, at 0551 saw blast, at 0553 shockwave passed ship. At 0908 maneuvered to take position astern of USS Estes; at 0933 recovered and launched helicopter. Reentered the lagoon at 0945; at 1050 anchored Bikini.
  3. Zuni (Bikini, 28 May, 0556). In operating area. At 0556 observed detonation, distance 29,600 yards. Between 0620 and 0635 operated washdown system; washdown system activated again between 0746 and 0752. Conducted helicopter flight operations between 0806 and 0827. Reentered lagoon at 0852; at 0948 anchored Bikini.
  4. Yuma (Enewetak, 28 May 0756). At sea for Zuni.
  5. Erie (Enewetak, 31 May, 0615). On 30 May underway from Enewetak for assigned operating area; at 0010 in are. I assigned operating area on 31 May and at 0615 saw detonation on northwest horizon, range 12,800 yards. Reentered lagoon at 0838; at 0920 anchored.
  6. Seminole (Enewetak, 6 June, 1256). Anchored, Bikini.
  7. Flathead (Bikini, 12 June, 0626). In operating area at 0606 detonation, range 17,200 yards; at 0628 shock wave passed the ship. At 0731 maneuvered to take position astern of Estes; conducted flight operations between 0746 and 0759; at 0806 astern of USS Badoeng Strait. Reentered lagoon at 0832; between 0838 and 0853 conducted helicopter flight operations; anchored at 0858.
  8. Blackfoot (Enewetak, 12 June, 0626). At sea for Flathead.
  9. Kickapoo (Enewetak, 14 June, 1126). Anchored Enewetak; at 1111 called crew to view blast off the starboard.
  10. Osage (Enewetak, 16 June, 1314). No data available. Ship was almost certainly in the vicinity of Enewetak Atoll on shot Osage, since it did not depart Enewetak until 17 June.
  11. Inca (Enewetak, 22 June, 0956). On 21 June at 1938 left berth for operating area. On 22 June at 0754 returned to Bikini, following Dakota postponement.
  12. Dakota (Bikini, 26 June, 0606). On 26 June underway from Bikini at 2350 for assigned operating area. In assigned operating area on 26 June at time of detonation; at 0610 maneuvered to take position astern of Estes. Conducted helicopter flight operations. Reentered lagoon at 0740. Ended flight operations at 0852. Anchored at 0900.
  13. Mohawk (Enewetak, 3 July, 0606). Anchored, Bikini.
  14. Apache (Enewetak, 9 July, 0606). Anchored, Bikini.
  15. Navajo (Bikini, 11 July, 0556). At 0226 underway from Bikini for operating area. At 0556 saw blast. Shock wave passed ship at 0558. At 0559 maneuvered to take position astern of Estes; began helicopter flight operations at 0812. Reentered lagoon at 0826. At 0836 ended helicopter flight operations. Anchored at 0851.
  16. Tewa (Bikini, 21 July, 0546). At 0142 underway for operating area. In assigned operating area at time of detonation. At 0549 the Tewa shock wave passed the ship. At 0600 maneuvered to take position astern of Estes; began helicopter flight operations at 0803. Reentered lagoon at 0830; at 0847 anchored. Ended helicopter flight operations at 0853. Underway for Enewetak at 1147. At 1755 set gas-tight envelope. Activated washdown system at 1826; continued to operate washdown system every 15 minutes.
  17. Huron (Enewetak, 22 July, 0616). Prior to detonation operated washdown system every 15 minutes while in assigned area, Enewetak. Experienced mild radiation contamination; damage control teams decontaminated all exposed weather decks with soap and salt water. At 0616 observed detonation at 24,300 yards. Entered lagoon at 0651; at 0749 anchored.”[10]

“Fallout occurred 21 July on Enewetak. Three ships, Curtiss, Ainsworth and Knudson, were dispatched from Bikini to Enewetak to be available for evacuation if necessary. The Curtiss’s acting commander sent a teletype message to the Director of Military Applications six days later:

Ainsworth, Curtiss, [and] Knudson ran into fallout while traveling to Enewetak for possible use in [an] emergency evacuation. [There is] no information on details for Ainsworth and Knudson…Curtiss sailed with [the] ship buttoned up and activated [the] washdown equipment every fifteen minutes and all night long as he stood off [the atoll] southeast of Parry.”[11]

In 1956, the Marshall Islands were by far the most contaminated place in the world according to the US Atomic Energy Commission.[12]

Operation Deep Freeze II.

The International Geophysical Year was collaboration between forty nations to conduct earth science studies from the North Pole to the South Pole and points in between. Operation Deep Freeze was the name given to the missions to Antarctica.[13] On 27 December 1956, the Curtiss left San Diego for Operation “Deep Freeze II.” They were at Port Lyttelton, New Zealand, from 12 to 15 January 1957, and entered McMurdo Sound on 19 January. Sailors of the wintering-over party and scientist were taken to Little America. They returned to San Diego on 25 March to undergo ice damage repairs.[14] At one point while at the Antarctica, the Curtiss was stuck in ice and the Navy sent telegrams to the men’s families about the seriousness of the situation.[15]

Medals, Awards, and Decorations

John’s DD214 listed no campaigns, medals, or citations. When an order was placed for replacement medals from the National Personnel Record Center, after his death, the National Defense and Antarctica Service Medals were received.

National Defense Medal.

The National Defense Medal was issued to all active duty military for service between 27 June 1950 and 27 July 1954.[16]

Antarctica Service Medal.

The Antarctica Service Medal was issued after John was discharged and he never knew it was awarded. He was awarded the medal for at least thirty days of service in support of scientific operations on the Antarctic Continent.[17]

 

[1] Hubert John Cook, personnel file, service no. 7674905 (discharged 1957); Official Military Personnel Files, Enlisted Personnel, Navy; National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri; photocopies supplied by the Center without citation.

[2] John Cook (Timpson, Texas), interview by Lori Cook-Folger, his daughter, July 2000; transcript privately held by interviewer, [address for private use,] Hot Springs, North Carolina.

[3] Hubert John Cook personnel file, serv. no. 7674905, NPRC–St. Louis.

[4] Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org), “Naval Air Station Olathe,” rev. 16:38, 13 September 2013.

[5] Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org), “Seaplane Tender,” rev. 01:41, 9 January 2010.

[6] The USS Curtiss (AV-4) Cruise Book, 1955–56, Wigwam to Redwing (Washington, D.C.: Navy Department Library, 1956), digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 March 2016), via “U.S. Navy Cruise Books, 1918–2008,” USS Curtiss AV-4, 1956, image 18 of 96.

[7] Otero County, New Mexico, Marriage Book 19:9904 (13 February 1956), Hubert J. Cook & Marjorie Earwood; County Clerk’s Office, Alamogordo.

[8] Hubert John Cook personnel file, serv. no. 7674905, NPRC–St. Louis.

[9] Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA), Operation Redwing: 1956, (Washington, D.C. : DNA Printing Plant, 1982), 1–2, ; digital images accessed through Defense Threat Reduction Agency (http://www.dtra.mil : accessed 27 October 2015), search for Operation Redwing.

[10] Defense Nuclear Agency, Operation Redwing: 1956, 56, 59, 82, 278–279.

[11] Defense Nuclear Agency, Operation Redwing: 1956, 210.

[12] Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org), “Marshall Islands,” rev. 23:40, 24 October 2015.

[13] Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org), “Operation Deep Freeze,” rev.15:24, 28 February 2016.

[14] James L. Mooney, editor, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, (Washington: Naval Historical Center, 1991) digital version, Naval History and Heritage Command (http://www.history.navy.mil : accessed 11 March 2016), “Curtiss (AV-4), 1940–1957.”

[15] Lunell (Cook) Hefner, conversation with Lori Cook-Folger.

[16] Medals of America (http://www.medalsofamerica.com : accessed 14 September 2005), “National Defense Service Medal.”

[17] Medals of America (http://www.medalsofamerica.com : accessed 14 September 2005), “Antarctica Service Medal.”