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War Hero Cousins

by Shirley Wilson  

We have two war heroes in our family, full cousins, one born in America the other born in Coundon in Co. Durham England. Both were in W.W.2. The first was the son of Honor Gallagher who left Coundon to marry an American - Nelson Cook- and to settle in Vermont Illinois and  take over the family farm. They had 5 children born in England and four more in Vermont. 

Julian Aaron Cook Lieutenant Colonel Commanding Officer of the third Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry began his Military career after leaving West Point Military Academy and was a Major in 1944  in Operation Market Garden. His operation was the only successful invasion of the entire operation. He managed to cross the Waal River at Nijmegen in Holland without loss of life. As his men were rowing under constant bombardment of enemy fire he shouted out ’Hail Mary, full of grace ' in time to the pulling of the  oars.

In the film 'A bridge too far' - Robert Redford played the part of Aaron (as we knew him). He was my fathers cousin and as a girl  during the War I met him several times Both at my Grandparents house (his Mother and my Grandfather were brother and sister) and when he visited us in Ushaw Moor  my home village. Over three months from September 17th to November12th 1944 he carried out offensive and defensive missions normally designed for full strength battalions after 50 percent casualities throughout the Holland Airborne Operation. He was wounded three times. He received the Distinguished Service Cross the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars for valour, two Purple Hearts and the Combat Infantry-mans badge. In addition he received The King Willaim Order the equivalent of the medal of honour from a grateful Dutch people for his superior professional ability, intrepid direction and heroic leadership over that time. After the War he continued his career in Alaska, South Korea, Vietnam and Italy and was Special Commander of the Special Combat Support Group famous for its 'Behind the lines activities’. He ended his career as a senior Adviser to the Army Reserves in N.and S. Carolina. U.S.A.

At the same time on September 17th 1944 north of the Escaut Canal in Holland, his cousin Harry (Henry) Gallagher( my father's brother) a sergeant tank driver  in the Irish Guards  from Coundon in Co. Durham England, was in a convoy attacked by the enemy. Nine tanks in front of him were knocked out.  Under heavy fire he reversed his tank to safety then worked for half an hour under small arms fire bringing back casualities from tanks in front of him which were on fire. He received the Military Medal from General Montgomery on the field of battle for this bravery.

We are descended from John Gallagher who came to England as a boy from Co. Wicklow mid 1800's.  All the above comes from newspaper cuttings and family stories and own memory. 

Mrs Shirley Wilson maiden name Gallagher.

 P.S. there are loads of us in The North East of England and of course in America from the same branch. 



Julian Aaron Cook

 Taken from

His civilian friends knew Major Julian Cook as Aaron but Julian stuck in his military carrier. Julian graduated Class of 1940 from The United States Military Academy at West Point. He went into the airborne form the 9th Division with his friend James E. McGinity also a West Point Grad. McGinty was killed in Normandy with the 505th. Julian named his only son after him. Major Cook jumped with Col. Tucker in his stick for the Sicily Jump. As he was standing up ready to jump flak hit the plane. Major Cook was wounded as he put it in the "can" and also in the thigh 1/8 of an inch away from his artery. Major Cook in Holland was the 3rd Bn Commander was tasked with the famous assault across the Waal River his first action as a Battalion Commander. With 26 boats (actually some were held in reserve for the second wave) he planned and executed the assault. The boats were assembled and someone yelled," Go". The 504th 3rd Bn attack was to be remembered as one of the most gallant rushes in history. Nobody paused. Men got out and began running toward the embankment and the enemy. Gen Horocks observing the action turned to Gen. Browning and said, "I have never seen a more gallant action". Major Cook went on to win the Distinguished Service Cross and retired a Colonel in the U.S. Army