Van Cook, Arthur F., LTC

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Last Rank
Lieutenant Colonel
Last Service Branch
Military Intelligence
Last Primary MOS
9300-Strategic Intelligence Staff Officer (G2, J2)
Last MOS Group
Military Intelligence (Officer)
Primary Unit
1964-1982, Office of Secretary of Defense (SECDEF)
Service Years
1939 - 1964

Military Intelligence

Lieutenant Colonel

Four Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
New York
New York
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Van Cook, Arthur F., LTC USA(Ret).
Contact Info
Home Town
New York City
Last Address
Springfield, VA

Date of Passing
Dec 07, 2005
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Army Staff Identification US Army Retired (Pre-2007) Meritorious Unit Commendation 1944-1961 French Fourragere

Office of Secretary of Defense Defense Intel Agency 29th Infantry Division

 Unofficial Badges 

Artillery Shoulder Cord Honorable Order of Saint Barbara

 Military Association Memberships
29th Infantry Division AssociationPost 18Association of Former Intelligence OfficersUnited States Field Artillery Association
  1945, 29th Infantry Division Association1
  1964, American Legion, Post 18 (Member) (Marion, Virginia) [Verified] - Chap. Page
  1982, Association of Former Intelligence Officers
  1982, United States Field Artillery Association [Verified] - Assoc. Page

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Arthur F. Van Cook, 86, who held top intelligence positions at the Pentagon, founded a consulting firm and recounted his experiences as an Army officer landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day, died December 7, 2005, at Inova Fairfax Hospital of complications from an abdominal aneurysm.

Colonel Van Cook, who served in the military for more than 25 years, was a young officer in an artillery division that was in the first wave of U.S. forces in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. On the 50th and 60th anniversaries of D-Day, he was quoted in news accounts describing the battle that ultimately led to the Allied victory in World War II.

His role, as a Lieutenant with the 29th Infantry Division, was to coordinate an artillery battery supporting soldiers on foot. But his landing craft capsized, and a second vessel he clambered aboard also was sunk.

"My battalion had the distinction, if you can call it that, of landing without any guns," he told The Washington Post in 1994. "All our field artillery pieces were sunk, out in the water, gone, except one."

Colonel Van Cook and his men were ordered to fix bayonets and storm the shore as infantry soldiers, dodging wreckage, bodies and cascades of enemy fire.


"The beach was like a junkyard," he told The Post last year. "There were jeeps on fire, and all manner of equipment strewn, like gas masks and rifles, and bodies. It was raining lead. It was all we could do to try and find cover."

After his unit had scaled the seaside cliffs and driven into the interior of Normandy, the jeep in which he was riding ran over a land mine. He was wounded by shrapnel, and the three men beside him were killed.

On the 50th anniversary of D-Day, he returned to France for the first time since the war and received a number of decorations from the French government. In 2003, when the French criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the octogenarian Colobel Van Cook mailed his medals to the French Embassy in protest.

"I know firsthand," he told The Post, "what we sacrificed for France. What I sacrificed for France. I think they owed us more than that."

The French ambassador returned the awards to Colonel Van Cook. He was later invited to attend a 60th-anniversary observance of D-Day in France. At that ceremony, held next to Napoleon's tomb, Colonel Van Cook walked down a red carpet and was presented the French Legion of Honor, the country's most prestigious award.

Before his flight to France, Colonel Van Cook quipped, "If this ambassador finds out I'm the guy who sent back his . . . medals, well, when this plane gets to 30,000 feet, they're going to turn to me and say, 'Hey, pal, why don't you step outside and grab a smoke?' "

Colonel Van Cook was born in New York City and entered the National Guard, with his parents' consent, when he was 16. He attended Officer Candidate School in 1942 and was promoted to First Lieutenant June 1, 1944 -- five days before D-Day.

After World War II, he served in Korea and West Germany, became an intelligence officer at the Pentagon and attended the University of Maryland. By the time he retired in 1964, Colonel Van Cook had received the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and two Army Commendation Medals.

For the next 18 years, he worked in the Defense Department as a security specialist, retiring in 1982 as director of information security in the office of the secretary of defense. He also served as chairman of the National Military Information Disclosure Policy Committee and as U.S. representative to the NATO Security Committee.

In 1982, Colonel Van Cook founded Avanco International, a McLean consulting firm specializing in defense issues and policy analysis. After his retirement in 1988, he worked as an independent consultant.

He was a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, the U.S. Field Artillery Association, the American Legion, the 29th Division Association and Lions Club. He lived in Springfield.

Colonel Van Cook often appeared in local schools, speaking of military life and D-Day.

His wife of 47 years, Jane T. Van Cook, died in 1988.

Survivors include two children, Jane C. Capers of Pensacola, Florida, and James F. Van Cook of Woodbridge; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.


VAN COOK, ARTHUR S., Lt. Col. USA (Ret.)

ARTHUR S. VAN COOK, 86, a former civilian Defense Official and Military Officer, died on December 7, 2005.

Colonel Van Cook entered military service from New York City. He served the United States Army in the enlisted and officer ranks for over 25 years, and retired as a Lieuetnant Colonel in 1964.

During World War II, he was in the European Theater and landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day in the first wave to hit the Normandy Coast with the 29th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action while attached to a Ranger unit, the Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf cluster. He also served tours of duty in Korea, Germany and the Pentagon in the fields of Intelligence and Security.

Upon his retirement from the U.S. Army, Colonel Van Cook joined the civilian ranks of the Department of Defense with assignment to the office of the Secretary of Defense as a Security Specialist. During the next 20 years he worked his way through the ranks to become a charter member of the Senior Executive Service and until his retirement in 1982, served in the office of the Secretary of Defense as Director of Information Security, Chairman of the National Military Information Disclosure Policy Committee and United States Representative to the NATO Security Committee. For these services and others, he was awarded The Secretary of Defense Meritorious Achievement Medal, The Secretary of Defense Distiguished Service Medal and The Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. In the latter part of June 1993, the National Classification Management Society selected Colonel Van Cook to receive its most prestigious award, the Donald B. Woodbridge Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Information Security. In May of 2001 he was inducted into the Artillery Hall of Fame at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.

Colonel Van Cook founded AVANCO INTERNATIONAL, a local consulting firm specializing in international security matters associated with the Department of Defense arms transfer process. He left the firm in 1988 and since had worked as an independent consultant.

He was a member of The Association of Former Intelligence Officers, The American Legion Post 18, The National Classification Management Society, The 29th Division Association, Post 94, The Springfield/Franconia Midday Lions Club, The United States Artillery Association and The Military Officers Association of America.

Recently the French Government awarded him the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor. It should be noted that he accepted the highest of French honors on behalf of all those military men who fought and died on French soil in World War II.

Colonel Van Cook is survived by his daughter Jane C. Capers; a son James F. Van Cook; four grandchildren Chris, Michael, Jenny and Katie; and triplet great-grandchildren Molly, Cameron and Griffin.

Other Comments:
A Mission to France For D-Day Fraternite

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page C01


PARIS, June 5 -- When the French came calling last month, offering the Legion of Honor -- their most prestigious decoration, first bestowed on a soldier by Napoleon himself -- Arthur Van Cook was unmoved.

Sixty years ago, he risked his life for them, wading ashore on a beach reeking of death. Now he had no patience for them.

"When the time came for France to get behind us in Iraq, they took a walk," said Van Cook, a retired career Army officer from Springfield. "I know firsthand what we sacrificed for France. What I sacrificed for France. I think they owed us more than that."

So keen was his sense of betrayal that last year, Van Cook, now 85, wrapped up a stack of decorations France had pinned on him during the 50th anniversary of D-Day and mailed them to the French Embassy. The ambassador mailed them right back, with a note saying that he could not accept them because the honors came not from him but from a grateful French nation.

It was only grudgingly, at the urging of the Department of Veterans Affairs, that Van Cook finally agreed to return to France. On Saturday, as he stood on the cobblestone plaza outside Napoleon's tomb to receive his red ribbon, he leaned in and whispered to the French general that he was accepting it on behalf of his fallen brothers.

"This is for them," he said.

Still, like many of the 100 veterans from across the United States selected by France to receive the honor, Van Cook's feelings about the country he shed blood to liberate have steadily thawed. This weekend, he and the others have been direct beneficiaries of a massive charm offensive that the French have orchestrated, not only to commemorate the sacrifices of D-Day, but to start to restore damaged relations with the United States.

"It's important today to go beyond the little hurdles, the difficulties of last year," said Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador to Washington, who conceived of the plan to fly the veterans to Paris and decorate them with medals. "During this week, we forget about Iraq, and 60 million Frenchmen will simply be saying thank you."

The courtship began in earnest Thursday, when the veterans arrived at the embassy in Washington, where wall-sized banners were emblazoned with the slogan, "France will never forget." From there, they flew together to Paris. They were met on the tarmac by French cabinet ministers and led down a red carpet to the strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

With wives, children and grandchildren in tow, they were whisked from the airport in luxury coaches flanked by police motorcycles, and traffic stopped for them the entire way into Paris. The veterans checked into gilded hotel suites priced at as much as $3,000 a night and dined at the finest restaurants, all as guests of the French government. On Sunday, they will join President Bush, French President Jacques Chirac and more than a dozen other heads of state for ceremonies in Normandy.

The most surprising aspect to Van Cook was not the movie-star treatment, he said, but the sentiment repeated over and over by French dignitaries and citizens.

"We are fully aware of what we owe you," Hamkaoui Mekachera, the French secretary for veterans affairs, told the Americans. "To the French people of 2004, as in 1944, you are, and the word is not too strong, you are true heroes."

There is hardly any other conclusion to draw from what these 100 Americans did on this day in 1944.

The group included former U.S. representative Sam M. Gibbons, 84, of Florida, who parachuted into northern France through a hailstorm of antiaircraft fire on the eve of the D-Day invasion. Upper Marlboro resident Howard Grant, 85, took almost constant fire as he scrapped his way through France and into Germany.

Earl Wilkerson, 81, of Sterling headed north from the beaches of Normandy and battled for a month to take the small village of St. Lo. His commander, Maj. Tom Howie, had told him he wanted to be the first American officer into the village. But as the battalion broke through the enemy line about a kilometer from the town, Howie's lung was pierced by a German mortar round. Men in the unit put his lifeless body on a stretcher, draped it with an American flag and carried Howie in as they liberated the town.

Van Cook, then 25 and in charge of coordinating artillery fire for the infantry landing at Omaha Beach, staved off death even before he crossed the English Channel. His landing craft capsized, and he had to be rescued by another vessel. By the time he waded ashore, about 8:30 a.m., all he could hear was the roar of Navy shells pounding the cliffs.

"The beach was like a junkyard," he said. "There were jeeps on fire, and all manner of equipment strewn, like gas masks and rifles, and bodies. It was raining lead. It was all we could do to try and find cover."

With his artillery lost at sea, Van Cook joined the infantry and assaulted the cliffs. He made it deep into France before taking a mission to spool communication lines between his unit and a tank. He set out in the front passenger seat of a jeep with three other men. When they hit a mine, all were thrown from their seats. Shrapnel pierced Van Cook's abdomen and damaged a kidney. The others died instantly.

The sacrifices of these men help explain why many in the group being honored this weekend have taken personal exception to the French position on Iraq, though few others are as blunt as Van Cook."He tells you how he feels," said his daughter, Jane Capers. "He even tells the president." She was referring to a letter Van Cook wrote President Bush last year suggesting he skip the D-Day ceremony in France and instead attend a service in Bedford, Va., the community that lost more men per capita on D-Day than any other in the nation.

When he arrived at the French Embassy on Thursday, Van Cook rolled his eyes at the quail eggs and puff pastry being served, saying he'd prefer "a ham and cheese sandwich." And he joked that he feared that the embassy staff flying with the veterans to Paris would realize that he was the one who returned his decorations last year.

"If this ambassador finds out I'm the guy who sent back his . . . medals, well, when this plane gets to 30,000 feet, they're going to turn to me and say, 'Hey, pal, why don't you step outside and grab a smoke?' "

Many of the veterans said they were put off by the French position on Iraq, but some, such as Tuskegee Airman Lee Archer, 82, of New York, said he believed the French were "trying to level the ground, and we should be graceful about it."

George McGovern, the former U.S. senator who was among the honorees because he flew 35 bombing missions during the liberation of Europe, said that when he was invited to receive the French Legion of Honor, a group of his friends told him, "That's no honor."

But standing outside the France-Amerique Foundation, where the veterans were brought for a luncheon Saturday with French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, McGovern said he believes the gesture was important for both countries.

"Our relations have really chilled, and there is nothing good that can come from that," McGovern said.

If the response from the veterans was any sign, the courtship was working. At the conclusion of the medal ceremony, a succession of high-ranking ministers and military officers approached each veteran to say thank you. When Alliot-Marie, the minister of defense, reached Van Cook, she smiled and told him, "It's a great honor for us to have you here."

He smiled broadly, stretched out his hand and thanked her back.

This one, he said, he will keep.



© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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 Unit Assignments
ARNG, New York29th Infantry Division1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery RegimentUS Army Europe (USAREUR)
8th ArmyDepartment of Defense (DOD)
  1935-1939, 844, ARNG, New York
  1943-1945, 1193, 29th Infantry Division
  1943-1945, 1193, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment/HHB
  1950-1953, US Army Europe (USAREUR)
  1955-1957, 8th Army
  1958-1964, 9300, Department of Defense (DOD)
  1964-1982, Office of Secretary of Defense (SECDEF)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1944-1944 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Northern France Campaign (1944)
  1944-1944 Operation Overlord/D-Day Beach Landings - Operation Neptune
  1944-1944 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Northern France Campaign (1944)
  1944-1944 Normandy Campaign (1944)/Battle of St. Lo
  1944-1945 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)
  1945-1945 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Central Europe Campaign (1945)
  1945-1945 Central Europe Campaign (1945)/Victory in Europe Day (VE Day - 8May45)
  1945-1946 US Occupation of Germany (WWII)
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