World War II, Korea and Vietnam War Vet, Kelly Cook remembered

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing

Shortly after WWII, 1st LT. Kelly Cook joined the Iowa National Guard as a charter member of the 174th Fighter Squadron where he began flying the F-84 Thunderjet.

When Cook came to Iowa as a traditional guard member he was working full time, teaching English at the University of Notre Dame which was also his alma mater.

As a B-24 crew member during the 2nd World War, Cook likely trained at what was the Sioux City Army Air Base, before being sent to Italy during the war.

Cook’s return to Sioux City after WWII and his affinity for the area became evident in the Kentucky native’s writings about his experiences in Western Iowa.

A poet and author, Cook often chronicled his experiences, whether writing for his campus newspaper or when contributing articles to other publications like the Iowa Guardsman Magazine. Cook’s writing prowess also led him to author a uniquely titled book about his experience in Italy titled, “The Other Capri; and All My Sad Captains.”

Within only a few years after his return to Sioux City, Cook and the rest of the 174th pilots were activated again in 1951 for the Korean War. The unit’s F-84 fighter jets and pilots were needed in another global conflict where nearly 80% of the Air National Guard was activated as part of the massive call-up.

Some 174th pilots and aircraft were deployed back to Europe to combat the soviet threat, while others like Cook were back in a hot war on the Korean Peninsula. After serving as 5th Air Force staff officer at Osan Air Base, Korea, Cook stayed on active duty upon his return to the U.S.

By the mid-1960s, Cook had merged his military and civilian interests and was working as an instructor at the United States Air Force Academy when America became involved in the Vietnam War.

At age 47 Lt. Colonel Cook volunteered again for service in Vietnam. Cook’s last active-duty assignment was as an F-4 Phantom pilot, working as the assistant director of operations for the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing in Vietnam.

Cook's F-4 was shot down in November of 1967, but he was reported to have successfully ejected. At the time he went missing Cook still listed Sioux City, Iowa as his home of record. Even though his remains were never repatriated he was declared killed in action in 1976.

Posthumously promoted to the rank of Colonel, Kelly Cook’s name is engraved on a memorial marker on the grounds of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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