Nathan E. Cook

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Nathan Edward Cook (October 10, 1885 – September 10, 1992) was a sailor in the United States Navy during the Philippine–American War whose naval career continued through the Second World War. When he died at the age of 106 he was the oldest surviving American war veteran.


Military career[edit]

Cook left a 50-cent-a-day job at a packing plant in a city from Kansas. He lied about his age (then 15) in order to join the Navy on July 9, 1901, after he saw a recruiting poster which said, "Join the Navy and See the World." He was assigned to the USS Pensacola.

He served during the Philippine–American War, which began shortly after Spain had ceded the Philippines to the United States after losing the Spanish–American War of 1898. The Philippine–American War lasted from 1899 until July 4, 1902 – one year after Cook's enlistment in the Navy.

Cook also saw service in the Boxer Rebellion and clashes along the U.S.–Mexico border.

After 12 and a half years of service as an enlisted man, he was appointed to the warrant officer rank of boatswain on January 11, 1913.[1]

During the First World War he commanded a submarine chaser that sank two German U-boats.

Cook was promoted on August 15, 1918 to the temporary rank of lieutenant and was given command of the tugboat USS Favorite on the 21st of the same month.[2]

Cook received a letter of commendation from the Secretary of the Navy for his role in salvaging the USS Narragansett in February 1919. The text of his commendation is as follows – "As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Favorite he took a conspicuous and creditable part in the operation of salvaging the U.S.S. Narragansett." [3]

With the conclusion of the First World War, Cook was reduced to his permanent rank of Boatswain and was promoted to Chief Boatswain on January 11, 1919.[4]

He also served in the early days of World War II, and was stationed at Port-au-Prince Haiti and in Panama. As of November 1, 1940 he was assigned as the executive officer of the SS Mormacyork which served as a transport from the United States to South America.[5]

He retired on April 1, 1942 on his own request after 40 years of service. He was promoted to the permanent rank of lieutenant the same day in recognition of his service in the First World War.[6]

Cook once said his Navy life was tough but that it beat living on his Missouri farm. During his naval career, Cook's shipmates nicknamed him "Northeast," derived from his first two initials.

Personal life[edit]

His father, William Cook, had died in 1895, and his mother Ellen later remarried and from there Cook's family moved to Kansas City, Missouri.

Cook went back to his Virginia home in 1982 after his wife of 76 years, Elizabeth (July 4, 1887 – October 13, 1982), died. They had met in New York in 1901 and married in 1905. Elizabeth is buried beside Nathan in the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.


Grave site of Nathan Edward Cook (1885-1992) and his wife Elizabeth Cook (1887-1982).

Cook was the last living member of the United Spanish War Veterans (USWV). The USWV was an organization of veterans of the Spanish–American War and the Philippine Insurrection who had served from 1898 to 1902. Cook was eligible to be a member of the USWV because he had enlisted during the Philippine Insurrection.

Cook was frequently referred to as a veteran of the Spanish–American War, but the truth is that he was not. The Spanish–American War officially ended in August 1898 and Cook enlisted in the Navy in April 1901. Because Cook was a member of the USWV, many assumed that he was a Spanish–American War veteran but this was not the case.

Cook was erroneously recognized as the longest surviving U.S. veteran of that war at the time of his death in 1992 (although there is a claim that Jones Morgan was a Spanish–American War veteran and survived longer). He was, however, most probably the last surviving veteran of the Philippine–American War.

When Cook turned 104, he received a congratulatory letter from George H. W. Bush and guests watched a video presentation about his life. Cook's younger daughter, Eleanor Kay of Tempe, Arizona, also said around this time: "He was a Navy man throughout. Navy. Navy. Navy. He lived for the Navy. Yes, he had a wife and family, and he enjoyed coming home to see them. But he also enjoyed getting back to his ship."


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, January 1, 1917.
  2. ^ Navy Register, 1919. pg. 100.
  3. ^ pg. 189.
  4. ^ Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, July 1, 1941. pg. 340.
  5. ^ Navy Directory, November 1, 1940. pg. 41.
  6. ^ U.S. Navy Register, 1947.

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