From Bamboo To Berlin And The Battle of the Bulge - Cook Brothers Shared Memories Of WW II

The six sons of Roscoe and Ina Cook grew up on the family farm in the Bamboo Community of Watauga County; they played well and worked hard together, and in the early ‘40's they went off to war together. The oldest five were in combat at the same time, and soon after Grant, the youngest, turned 18, he was drafted, too. The eldest brother, Bill still says today, "It shouldn't have been that way they weren't suppose to take the last son." Grant says in retrospect, "I was the lucky one, the war was nearly over when I went in.

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Today, the five surviving Cook brothers live within a mile of each other and are as close now as they were before the war took them away. With just two years between each, from the oldest to the youngest, they have a story to tell, and with the exception of brother Mac, who died several years ago from cancer, they enjoy getting together and reminiscing about a time in their lives that seems so far away, but yet so close.From Bamboo To Berlin And The Battle of the Bulge

While Doc found his way to North Africa and Italy in the Field Artillery, Bill and Mac were in the Infantry Division; Boyd in Topographical Engineering, Dane and Grant in the Armored Division, all serving in France, Germany, Belgium, and surrounding areas.

They all remember "catching the boat" across to foreign soil, and then spending endless hours, it seemed, in cramped rail cars, where men and animals alike were given the same space. Boyd, in particular, remembers "spending two Christmases on the boat," as fighting left no room for celebration, and being terribly sick at sea. He was on his way to invade Japan when the war was over, but, as part of the "first wave of island attack" he had seen enough fighting in his eight months in the South Pacific to last a lifetime. "I saw 9,000 bodies pushed into one hole 6,000 in another, but the worst thing that bothered me was the kids starving to death war death got to where it didn't mean much because you saw it every day."

Boyd, as well as his brothers, knew their lives were in constant jeopardy, "We were on the line every day with no protection," he says as he describes the bullet that passed between his arm and body and then hit the soldier standing next to him.

Bill was married and had two children when he was called into the Army, heading to England after basic training. Six days after leaving port in New York, he arrived in England, then took a train to France, on to Belgium, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was wounded. "somewhere along the front lines is where I earned my bronze star, though I can't tell you exactly when or where it happened." Bill fought under Patton's leadership part of the time, in the 83rd Infantry Division.

Bill, Dane and Mac were all drafted at the same time and crossed over much of the same land and sea, sometimes, they learned later, only with in a few miles" radius of each other. Dane recalls meeting up with both brothers in one day, only hours apart, and moving from New York to France "the day before Christmas." Needless to say, thoughts of home weren't far away. Serving in the 9th Armored Division, he recalls three days and three nights on a train, where his hands and feet were literally frozen from the cold coming through the wide cracks in the boxcars. "We got through the Battle of the Bulge," and he remembers clearly, driving the third tank across the Rhine River, and "running into a bunch of Germans that were real mad they blowed off the top half of the tank and killed our commander."Cook Brothers Shared Memories Of WW II

Bill said he was within ten miles of Dane when he crossed the Rhine. "that was one of the greatest things. I just knew he had been there." As part of the 28th Division, Grant guarded thousands of war criminals until they hung some of the meanest you ever saw," and recalls underground factories blown away by the German.

Fonder memories of the men include the Audobon Highway, where war planes landed in the night, though in the day, "It was the most beautiful road I had ever been on," states Dane, and of course, the Blue Danube River sticks out in their minds, also.

As the last one to leave home, and the last one to return, Grant remembers how little the war was discussed with their parents. "they didn't talk about the war much with us. They didn't really want to know and there was a lot we didn't want them to know."

While it must have been a difficult time for their parents to have all six sons away at war at the same time, they all agree that "Mama did a lot of letter writing and praying."

More than fifty years have passed since the Cook boys left Boone to serve their country, uprooted from a life they loved and a reputation of being the best baseball players around. During this interview, Bill, now 81, sat in the comfort of his home, surrounded by his brothers who all remained faithful to the cause, each one sharing what serving their country meant to them.

They all agree they"ve had a good life all but Mac built their homes and settled close to the family farm; he moved to South Carolina, where he worked for Standard Oil Co. Bill, Doc and Dane all retired from TRW after 31, 32 and 27 years of consecutive service; Grant worked for the Watauga County Board of Education as bookkeeper for "34 years and 8 months," and Boyd has spent much of his adult life as a painter. They attended Bamboo School and on to Appalachian High; Grant and Dane were taken out of school to serve in the Army, and graduated only after the war was over.

The men have been lifetime members of Mount Vernon Baptist Church and in their free time, they still like to play (a little!) golf. From Bamboo to Berlin, Battle of the Bulge and back, as brothers they remain, standing for what is right serving their God and country in the midst of war, as well as in times of peace.

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