Photo: Photos Courtesy Cook Family
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When 18-year-old Dale Cook landed on Iwo Jima in February 1945, his commanding officer put a rifle in his hand and told him and his Marine comrades to capture the south airfield.
That’s what Cook did. And in the 36 days that followed — five weeks of some of the bloodiest fighting of World War II — Cook and his fellow Marines dodged bullets, slogged through mud, took cover in ditches and overtook key enemy positions in the hills of the remote South Pacific island.
But not without cost. In all, 6,800 U.S. service members died in the ferocious battle. Every man in his squad except for him, Cook said, was killed. Cook himself was wounded in the back and leg by a grenade and evacuated to a hospital ship.
“What he did on Iwo Jima was a life-defining experience for him,” said his granddaughter, Stacey Simon. “It made him feel he could do anything. From that point on, he never took ‘no’ for an answer.”
Cook died Feb. 28 of natural causes at his home in Brentwood. He was 92 and among the last survivors of the Iwo Jima battlefield.
A native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Cook enlisted in the Marines in 1944 while still in high school and trained on a mortar crew. After the war, he joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the first of many veterans groups. Cook led an annual commemoration of the battle for many years, first at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, and then at the Marines Memorial Club in San Francisco. He returned to Iwo Jima three times, for reunions.
He was president of the Joe Rosenthal chapter of the U.S. Marines Corps Combat Correspondents’ Association. The chapter is named for the late San Francisco Chronicle and Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who took the iconic picture of the Iwo Jima flag raising. At the time of his death, Cook was leading an effort to have a Navy ship named for Rosenthal.
After the war, Cook graduated from Washington State University and went on to a four-decade career as a newspaperman in Washington state and as a public relations officer for the Atomic Energy Commission, where he assisted reporters covering nuclear weapons tests in the Nevada desert.
In later years, he was a U.S. Army Reserve public information officer at the Presidio in San Francisco.
Cook was a Sierra hiker, a Boy Scout troop leader and a devoted raiser of English bulldogs, the Marines’ mascot. He enjoyed showing the dogs in local shows and acting as a dog show judge. His home was a Marine Corps museum stuffed with books, maps, artifacts, photos and awards.
And he never tired of sharing the story of Iwo Jima with family and friends.
“He could re-create in words exactly what it was like,” Simon said. “You could close your eyes and picture yourself there, in the foxholes, at night, standing watch, with gunfire going on all around. Listening to my grandfather was like watching a movie.”
He is survived by daughters Debra Kobold and Marie Wynn, both of Brentwood; sons Jim and Dale Jr., both of Martinez; 11 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Mary, his wife of 63 years, died in 2018.
A funeral Mass will be said on March 12 at 1 p.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 500 Fairview Ave., Brentwood.
Steve Rubenstein is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Dale-Cook-a-World-War-II-vet-who-survived-wounds-13670837.php.