Cook, Julian Aaron.

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Cook, Julian Aaron.

Cook, Julian Aaron born 07-10-1916 at Mount Holly, Vermont, to the American father Nelson Pingrey Cook and an English mother, Honora (born Gallagher). His parents met when Nelson, a travelling salesman in the UK stopped for the night in a hotel in West Auckland County Durham and having enjoyed his evening meal asked to complement the cook, Honora Gallagher. Julian attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, and graduated as an officer, with the rank of second lieutenant, in 1940. Julian volunteered for the airborne forces in 1942, joining the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment “Blue Devils”, 504th PIR), 82nd  which became part of the 82nd “All American” Airborne Division, under command of General James “Slim Jim” Gavin..

Cook made combat jumps into Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio before taking command of the 3rd Battalion of the 504th PIR  just prior to Operation Market Garden.

  The regiment, due to heavy losses in Italy and a lack of airborne replacements, did not participate in the Allied invasion of Normandy.

On 17-09-1944, Cook, now a major, jumped into the Netherlands near the Maas Waal Canal. After assisting in securing the canal crossing, his unit marched to Nijmegen. Major General James Gavin, commanding the 82nd Airborne, had ordered a crossing of the Waal River during daylight hours so the Americans could outflank the German defenders, who were dug in around the city’s crucial bridges. Cook was put in charge of the crossing, was in the first wave across the river. As Cook’s first wave began their crossing, the Allied bombardment began. The wind blew away the smokescreen, leaving the men in the water open and visible to the German guns.  As a devout Catholic, Cook loudly recited Hail Mary during the crossing, spurring his men on under the withering fire. He took charge of the boats, redirecting those who were disoriented and pushing the men along. Once ashore, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment cleared the river bank, moved north and assaulted the railway bridge over the highway leading to the main road bridge in the village of Lent] Cook was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross

The 504 lost 48 men during the crossing and of the twenty-six boats thirteen were lost in delivering the first wave. Of these, eight succeeded in returning to the south bank. Time was lost in the delivery of the second wave because the boats landed downstream and had to be manhandled to the launching sites. These eight boats were rapidly reduced to one, but the engineers, with complete disregard of their own losses, continued their trips until the mission was accomplished.

One of the crossing survivor’s was Lieutenant Colonel Jim “Maggie” Megellas.

After Market Garden, Cook was promoted to Lieutenant colonel. Cook led his battalion during the Ardennes Offensive in fights around Trois-Points, Cheneux and Herresbach, and later on in the drive through Germany. At the end of the war he was promoted to colonel..

Death and burial ground of Cook, Julian Aaron.


In 1953 Cook became American liaison officer to the French forces in French Indochina. There he became ill and spent eight months in hospitals.

He died at on 19-6-1990, age 73 in Columbia, South Carolina, and is buried on Pleasant View Cemetery, Ludlow Windsor County, Vermont, USA

Robert Redford  portrayed Cook in the 1977 film A Bridge too Far On 08-10-1945 by Royal Decree, Cook was knighted by Queen Wilhelmina,

  with the rank of Knight 4th class of the Military William Order . The Order is the highest and oldest honour of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is bestowed for “performing excellent acts of Bravery, Leadership and Loyalty in battle”. It is an extremely prestigious award, comparable to the French Légion d’honneur or the American Medal of Honor, but far less frequently awarded.

 On 22-09-2022, a plaque for Julian Aaron Cook was unveiled, attached to an apartment complex on Theo Dobbestraat, in Nijmegen. The apartment complex is named after this major who led the Waal crossing during the Second World War.

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