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WWI & WWII – Merian C. Cooper

Merian C. Cooper (Producer: King Kong, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Mighty Joe Young) was educated at The Lawrenceville School and entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912, but resigned in 1915 (his senior year) in a dispute over his belief in air power which the Navy did not share. In 1916, he joined the […]

WWI & WWII – Merian C. Cooper

Merian C. Cooper (Producer: King Kong, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Mighty Joe Young) was educated at The Lawrenceville School and entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912, but resigned in 1915 (his senior year) in a dispute over his belief in air power which the Navy did not share. In 1916, he joined the Georgia National Guard to help chase Pancho Villa in Mexico. Captain Cooper served as a DH-4 bomber pilot with the U.S. Army Air Service during World War I. He was shot down and captured by the Germans, serving out the remainder of the war in a POW camp. From late 1919 until the 1921 Treaty of Riga, Cooper was a member of a volunteer American flight squadron, the Kosciuszko Squadron, which supported the Polish Army in the Polish-Soviet War. On July 26, 1920, his plane was shot down, and he spent nearly 9 months in a Soviet prisoner of war camp. He escaped just before the war was over and made it to Latvia. For valor he was decorated by Polish commander-in-chief Jozef Pilsudski with the highest Polish military decoration, the Virtuti Militari. He re-enlisted for World War II and was commissioned a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He served with Col. Robert L. Scott in India as a logistics liaison for the Doolittle Raid. They then went to Dinjan Airfield, Assam, and with Col. Caleb V. Haynes, a bomber pilot, set up the Assam-Burma-China Ferrying Command, which was the origin of The Hump Airlift. He later served in China as chief of staff for General Claire Chennault of the China Air Task Force — precursor of the Fourteenth Air Force — then from 1943 to 1945 in the Southwest Pacific as chief of staff for the Fifth Air Force’s Bomber Command. Leading many missions and carefully planning them to minimize loss of life, he was known for his hard work and relentless planning. At the end of the war, he was promoted to brigadier general. For his contributions, he was also aboard the USS Missouri to witness Japan’s surrender. Cooper and his friend and frequent collaborator, noted director John Ford, formed Argosy Productions in 1947 and produced such notable films as Wagon Master (1950), Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), and The Searchers (1956).

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Nick Reed

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