An emergency roadside landing strip, one of many constructed along
the new Alaska Highway, has saved a soldier's life and brought commendation to two Army medical officers.
Near death of a ruptured appendix, Sergeant James West lay in the remote Donjek River Crossing camp too ill to move. In response to telegraphed appeal, two physicians of the Northwest Service Command base hospital steuued into a plane in a swirling snowstorm and 10 below zero temperature.
They were Capt. William T. Joyce of Scranton, Pa., and Lieut. Eugene Maskowitz of Mount Vernon, N. Y.
With five army trucks forming an "L" and illuminating a roadside
strip with their headlights, Pilot Leslie Cook of Whitehorse set his plane down after a two-and-a-half-hour battle with storm and darkness. The officers hastened to an
improvised operating room in the end of a rough barracks and performed a successful operation.
The official commendation for heroism, signed by Col. F. M. S. Johnson of the Army Engineers was handed them here today.
The Whitehorse Star - Friday, December 11, 1942
A week ago today there occurred the saddest fatal accident so far in the history of Whitehorse when a Norseman plane, piloted by Les Cook and accompanied by his two mechanics, Ken McLean and Don Dickson, crashed on one of the main streets near the home of Mr. and Mrs. I. Taylor.
It was shortly after 4 o'clock in the afternoon when the trio left the local airport on a test flight. That the flight was intended to be of short duration was evidenced by the fact that the engine of their motor truck was left running at the airport due to the low temperature prevalent at the time. The plane had not been in the air many minutes when a forced landing became inevitable. In its descent it struck several trees as well as some telephone poles and wires in the vicinity of the hospital and upon striking the ground burst into flames. Only the body of one of its occupants, that of Ken McLean, was extricated from the flaming inferno. The others were not secured for some hours afterwards.
A military funeral service was held at Christ Church Monday for the late Les Cook and Don Dickson. The remains of Ken McLean have been shipped to Edmonton where
his widow is at the present time.
The service was conducted by the Rev. L. G. Chappell, Rector of Christ Church, assisted by two U. S. Army chaplains, Capt. Erwin T. May and Lieut. F. H. Austin, both of the Engineers Corps. The mourners were Mrs. Lillian Cook, her mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Murray, the late pilot's father who arrived from Pincher Creek, Alberta, Mrs. Amelia Dickson, Mr. and Mrs. Dave Wilson and Mrs. John Phelps. The Guard of Honor was composed of officers from army headquarters. The pallbearers for the late Les Cook were Major Stann, Capt. Gee, Capt. Palfreyman (representing the U. S. Army) and Dr. F. Burns Roth, W. Gordon, Jr., and John Phelps. Those for the late Don Dickson were Corpl. Barry Allan, R.C.M.P., Jack Barber, Yorke Wilson, Gordon Armstrong, H. D. Zeiser and Bob Bockler (representing the Northwest Air Lines.) Both caskets were draped with the Union Jack and Stars and Stripes and an array of floral tributes whilst the firing squad was composed of an equal number of vhite and colored troops of the U.S. Army. It was a most impressive service, the church being filled to capacity by the sorrowing friends of the deceased.
In the name and on behalf of the wide circle of friends of the deceased, both near and far, we extend to the bereaved ones sincerest and heartfelt sympathy.
To the memory ot Les Cook, one of the most intrepid and experienced and well-known pilots of the north. Few knew this northland better than Les and none were more popular than he in aviation circles. The tragedy is that the skill and ingenuity which he had so often and so unselfishly displayed in his many mercy flights for the benefit of others he was unable to apply to save his own life and those of his companions who died with him.
I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for many kindnesses, messages of sympathy, received from many friends during the sad and sudden loss of my beloved husband, Pilot Les Cook. Special thanks to Rev. Chappell, Capt. Erwin T. May, Lieut. Tinnis H. Austin and the officers and men of the U.S Army, 18th Engineers.