70 years ago – Pacific Theater

When J.B. wrote these missives, he was 59 years old and part of the U.S. Marine invasion force to retake Guam and determine friend from foe. These are his exact words although I have corrected some spellings and any additions/clarifications I added will be italicized.

July 16th
Good Morning Precious,

Still no mail and it looks as though we’ll have none got sometime. I’m not worried about you, but I do wish I had your address. Whoever is responsible for getting our mail to us has done an abominable job (l.o). We have had ample opportunity to get mail but some how have gotten it just once. Too many experts maybe. If I had some address in S.F. [San Francisco] to send your letters. John has an office over there but he isn’t there. Phil isn’t there. No doubt you have sent the address to me. I don’t even have Mrs. McDougal’s address or I would send letters in care of her. I have had plenty of chances to mail letters – I hope you get ‘2m. The chances for mailing now are pretty slim. I’ll try to take time out today for church. We will have services during the day.

Darling, you don’t know how much I miss you. It becomes more poignant when no letters come. Some fellows have wives they don’t write, how terrible. Then one fellow who has been out here for 20 months receives word that his wife had a 7½ lb. boy. How miraculous. He said “My wife’s a Mother and I’m not a father.” Another man got a letter from his wife with divorce papers enclosed. Told her husband that she was pregnant and that he must divorce her. Men come to the officers with their letters and there isn’t a thing any of us can do except talk. I can’t see why women have to write such letters at this time. It certainly upsets the boys and some don’t give a damn anymore, they just try to get killed.

Even mothers write depressing letters telling the boys that they are dying and must have him home before she dies. A lot of the cases are turned over to the Red Cross to handle. They find many who will say anything to get the boys back. We will all be back as soon as we can get back. I won’t come back though as long as I am needed here. You want me. but you don’t want me to dodge any duty. That is another of your many virtues. You are so inspirational to your man. I am so proud of you.

With you back there waiting for me I have no room for complaint. The love I have for you gives me something wonderful to think about. The Service, sunsets, waves, beaches, trees, everything makes me think of you. Every day I’ll write you. Your next batch of letters will be bulkier. Bye, bye, my adorable sweetheart. I do love you.

Your devoted Daddy

The photo JB references in his next one is currently unknown.

Sweetheart –

I was just handed this snapshot. Will try to get it to you right away. The boys are all from L.A. except me. The one marked X is {Blondier} husband Penny Singleton. His name is Halpern. The two sitting, your daddy and Comdr. Ganman are Navy, the rest marines. I still love you, darling, just like I do all the time. I’ll be looking for another 62 letters one of these days – nearly all from you. Big squeezes and kisses from –

Your devoted Daddy

70 years ago – Letters from the war

When J.B. wrote these missives, he was 59 years old, had retired from the U.S. Navy and gone into politics in the state of California. The advent of World War II changed all that. He was recalled into naval service, put in charge of training first in Hawaii, then in Florida. Due to his (and his son John’s) intimate familiarity with Guam and the Mariana’s Islands, J.B. was part of the U.S. Marine invasion force to retake Guam and determine friend from foe. These are his exact words although I have corrected some spellings and any additions/clarifications I added will be italicized.

July 15, 1944
My dear Sweetheart –

One of these days I’ll be allowed to put a heading on these letters. Your intuition will have to fill in. The press gives out far more news we are allowed to. There is a good reason for it. I ran across ______. Maybe I told you, anyhow he gave me some stamps. I can mail ’em but can’t get em, just that one time. One mail in 44 days, Somebody is not on the job. A lot of fellows get credit for a lot of things they don’t do. I hope the guys that have to do with the mail get a dressing down. Time magazine (miniature copies for the Service) come regularly. They must have a drag. Gee! the lies they print.Every time I have read anything in Time that I have known about before hand, is wrong. Save the July 3rd issue and someday I’ll tell you things. The printers must fill it in – I don’t see how they could get such lies past the censor.

This morning I had sausage, french toast? That’s what they called it. Coffee – canned figs. Not bad. Last night we had steak, good too. Every meal I eat I long for you, to be eating with you and giving you well deserved praise for the dainty morsels you put before me. You do everything right. I love you for everything you do and for everything you are – my precious wife.

Your devoted Daddy

70 Years ago – The Invasion of Guam

In the spring of 1944, Commander J.B. Cooke was stationed in Miami at the Seventh Naval District’s Headquarters. He provided radio addresses and public relations for the war effort (as seen below) and at some point also partook in the planning of the recapturing of Guam, as he had been the 2nd ranking naval officer in Guam in the 1930s.

While he was a part of the US invasion force to retake Guam, he wrote his wife daily notes / letters saying what he could and documenting his condition. Some time afterwards, he retyped these missives and edited some parts of it. What follows will be daily dispatches from 15 July through 16 August.

JB making a war time radio broadcast on WQAM radio station (AM 560)

JB making a war time radio broadcast on WQAM radio station (AM 560)

JB and other officials making a public broadcast event with an alleged captured Japanese sub on WIOD (AM 610) in Miami

JB and other officials making a public broadcast event with an alleged captured Japanese sub on WIOD (AM 610) in Miami

18 April 1906 – 108 years ago


Seamen Cooke and Faries photographed in San Francisco on 14 April 1906 (JB is standing)


JB’s handwritten account of the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

In April of 1906 J B Cooke was a seaman in the US Navy and stationed onboard a ship in San Francisco harbor. On Saturday, 14 April 1906, he and a good friend of his, of whom all I know at this point is his last name, Seaman Faries, went ashore in the the afternoon and commemorated their visit with photographs taken at a studio there. This is one of the photos; there were at least 3 taken, each with different expressions and poses, but of the same two individuals in the same naval uniforms.

Subsequently, JB wrote on this one of his experience on the back side of the photo. His text reads:

On Sat April 14th came ashore with Faries. Put up at the Winchester hotel. Made reservation for Wed the 18th and deposited some money with the clerk for a “Rope Yarn” Liberty.*

We came ashore at 7:30 a.m. to help put out a fire camped on Folsom St. dock. No money and no liberty. Some folks said an earthquake started the fire.

Later he wrote below (The San Francisco Earthquake)

Although he played a minor role in the recovery efforts after the earthquake, JB clearly loved San Francisco and the area. He would meet his first wife there, Alvina Nagel, and later retire from public service to San Francisco, with his 2nd wife Anne. (They had an apartment on Broadway, towards the western end I think).

*A Rope Yarn Liberty is navy lingo for permitted early leave on Wednesdays, usually devoted to personal errands.Essentially Wednesday afternoon off.

Housekeeping News

Well, the slow down in posts has been caused by a major life change. We have relocated from central Virginia to south Florida, Fort Lauderdale to be precise. Of course this meant packing and selling the house, lots of things moving in and out of storage ( many things still in storage), finding a new place to live and schlepping it all down here. Look for more in the near future.

Artifact 0180 – a symbol of success in a bygone era

Front of Bleecker's Playboy Club Key card

Front of Bleecker's Playboy Club Key card

Back of Playboy Club Key Card

Back of Playboy Club Key Card


For at least 45 years (if not longer) one of the gifts Bleecker received from his brother Phil every Christmas was an annual subscription to Playboy magazine. Along the way Bleecker also joined the Playboy Club – which was only $25/year back then. He did use it for business meetings and a couple times for family outings. Playboy was not solely about sex, but also about culture and style. One of those family outings was to the Lake Geneva Playboy Club for lunch on a Saturday. My sister had always wanted to see a real live Playboy Bunny up close; so did my brothers too, but not with the admiration my sister had. Somehow she knew that the Bunnies were women empowered – they knew they were attractive and desirable, but they also had more – grace, empathy, intelligence.

After Bleecker’s death, this Playboy Key card was found in his effects. It is made from a slab of aluminum (or aluminium, in the old homeland) about twice the thickness of late 20th century plastic credit cards. It dates from about 1973 or 1974. In the Cooke Family Artifact catalog, it is artifact number 0180.


Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season. Here is a blast from the past. John, Isyl, Bleecker, Pat, Jack, David, Alan & Sierra – Christmas Eve in Pinole California, 1968. May this holiday season bring you fond memories and create new ones.

The Cooke Family Christmas Eve 1968

Christmas Eve 1968 Pinole California

December 1941

December 1941 was an eventful month for some of the Cooke family. On December 1st, JB and Savvy were at their respective Naval commands at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii (then still a territory). Isyl, Annie, Bleecker and Phil were also on Oahu at the time. John was on Wake Island as the Pan Am station manager and because of the International Date Line, a day ahead too. Bill, Vera, Bill Jr. and CMC Sr. were all in Kansas City, Missouri; Alvina and Cornelia among others were in California near Los Angeles.

On December 7th, when the Japanese forces attacked, Savvy’s battleship was in drydock so did not sink, although damaged. JB’s car was bombed and destroyed, taking all the Christmas presents with it as they were in the trunk. It is reported that both Savvy and JB returned fire (with others) at the waves of attacking airplanes.

On Wake Island where John was stationed, the attack occurred on 8 Dec 1941. John later wrote his account of it which he called “God Bless Hirohito” which referred to debt cancellation caused by the Japanese destruction of assets on Wake Island. Read the account here. Isyl being the trained journalist she was, interviewed the American refugees of Wake and wrote this article published in the Kansas City Star on Sunday, 22 March 1942.

On 14 Dec 1941, John was sworn back into service in a joint Naval-Army Air Corp venture to provide air transport and logistics for the Pacific war effort. He was sworn in by his father Lt. Cmdr. J.B. Cooke at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii as seen in the picture below. As a result of this John Cooke was discharged from the Navy prior to the war (but remained an Ensign in the Naval Reserves) and discharged from the Air Force (which the Army Air Corp later became) by act of Congress.


JB Swears In John, 14 Dec 1941

JB Swears In John, 14 Dec 1941

Mea Culpa

The lull in posting has been due to various projects needing attention both around the house and at work. I will say that a magnitude 5.6 earthquake (Mineral VA) and a category 1 hurricane (Irene) were in the mix as well. But more articles are forthcoming.

Memorial Day 2011

In honor of those family members who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States and are no longer with us. Here are a few of the Cooke’s who have contributed:

Stephen Bland Cooke

Cmdr Stephen Bland Cooke, USN, killed in service 1941

Cmdr John Bleecker Cooke, USN, died in 1972

Cmdr John Bleecker Cooke, USN Ret., died in 1972

Admiral Charles M. "Savvy" Cooke Jr

Admiral Charles M. "Savvy" Cooke Jr, USN Ret., died 1970

RMFC John Bleecker Cooke, Jr., USN, USAF, died 1997

RMFC John Bleecker Cooke, Jr., USN, USAF, died 1997

Capt Hamilton Joslin, USN

Capt Hamilton Joslin, USN (John's step-brother, JB's step-son)


Lt (jg) J. Bleecker Cooke, USN, died 2009

Lt (jg) J. Bleecker Cooke, USN, died 2009