The Greatest Choice

There are many stories that need to be shared with your family before you can no longer share them. Your loved ones need to know about their heritage and especially your journey to Christ. Take the time, tell your story. Let God use your experiences to impact your children and grandchildren’s lives and their world. This is the story of a man whose life greatly blessed many.

December 7th, 1941, was described as “a day that will live in infamy” by President William D. Roosevelt. American Naval Forces in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were sneak attacked by the forces of the Empire Japan, while peace talks were on going between the two nations. America would soon enter WWII. It was a sad day that cost 2403 American lives, and the nation was furious because of this treacherous deceit.

Floyd Cook was sitting in a hamburger joint in Detroit, Michigan, with a group of 17 year old high school seniors when they heard the Pearl Harbor radio announcement. Collectively, they immediately decided to join the armed service and go fight for America. The problem was that their parents refused to sign for them to enter into the service early before the age of eighteen. They were told to finish high school and then join the military.That is exactly what they did.

Floyd had become enamored with the idea of flying a P-51 fighter plane and decided to join the Air Force like his older brother, Ron.
The real obstacle to this desire was the requirement of two years of college or the passing of an equivalency test, just to get in the pilot program. Floyd felt he didn’t have time for college due to the war circumstances, so along with finishing his high school classes, he also completed college courses in math and physics. He was able to pass the qualifying exam and enter the Aviation Cadet Program when he turned 18, in the summer of 1942.

During a quiet talk late in the evening that summer with his girlfriend, Ludie Chapman, he told her that she shouldn’t wait for him because, although he had grown up in church, he had never given his life to Jesus and he knew that she had. He knew his life was headed for trouble. Ludie knew that they loved each other dearly, and was having none of this “not saved” business. She challenged him with a Holy Spirit empowered review of the gospel and he made the right choice. While in the hallway of her parents’ home, he asked Jesus to forgive his sin, and be his personal Savior. He said, “My tears ran down the wall where I leaned my head and prayed that wonderful prayer.” What a change occurred as the weight of his soul was lifted, and he promised to return after the war and marry her, if he survived. Ludie knew how to boldly call on God and that is what she did about her future with the man she loved.

Off he went to boot camp and then to Washington State College for a five month accelerated two year college course. From there, it was off to Basic Pilot Training where the competition was intense and a forty percent wash out rate thinned the class down. The classwork and flying instructions weren’t the only things that were intense. That young lady at home wrote very effective love letters. He knew that she was knocking on Heaven’s door for him every day. Some place along the way they were engaged, but decided that it would be wise to wait until after the war was over to get married. Ludie prayed about that also, and wouldn’t you know it, things progressed and ideas changed. All of a sudden that beautiful godly young lady, who knew how to ask God for the desires of her heart, was on a train to California to get married on April 29, 1944. From then on, they were a team – God, Floyd, and Ludie working to get through the rigors of the Air Force Cadet program. Their teamwork would continue for the rest of their lives.
The second phase of flight training washed out another thirty percent of his group. Many of the guys who washed out of pilot training became navigators and bombardiers. Then, after eighteen months of the most demanding training of WWII, he graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant Pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Were they proud? You bet they were! Excitement, anticipation, and a little fear followed this accomplishment. This meant that he was heading for a place where his life would constantly be in danger.

His dream of shooting down enemy warplanes ended when the Air Force decided that they had enough trained fighter pilots and that he would be assigned to the Burma and China war zone to fly with the 12th Comcar Squadron 3rd Group Myitkyina, Burma (the unit known as the Flying Tigers). So it was good bye to the P-51 (like a sport car) and hello to the twin engine C-46 Curtis Commando (like an eighteen wheeler with wings).
Soon it was time for him to leave for the war in the Pacific, and the world’s first and most deadly airlift. The newlyweds said their sweet goodbyes and Ludie headed home to wait for his return. He went to Hunter Field, Georgia, and picked up a brand new C-46 aircraft. He and his crew left the U.S. from Bangor, Maine, and flew links to Labrador, Greenland, Ireland, Scotland, France, Libya, Egypt, Iran, India, and finally to a tent in the jungle of Burma (approximately 13,000 miles).
Part of his work was to deliver payloads of fifty gallon barrels of aviation fuel, which was very risky, into and through what was considered the worst weather in the world. Not to mention the fact that a single bullet from a Japanese Zero fighter plane could easily turn them into an instant fireball. They flew over the Himalayas (known as “The Hump”) and into China in an indispensable effort to supply the Chinese army in the war for their homeland and keep 1.5 million of the Japanese invaders bogged down and away from the defense of the Pacific.  Imagine the difficulties those forces would have caused for the American push toward Japan.

Much of the time they were flying in clouds by instruments, with no visibility outside the plane. They travelled through vicious electrical storms, torrential rains, and violent turbulences that could force a plane to drop thousands of feet in a few seconds. They had to sit and literally sweat it out, until the weather spit their plane out into clearer skies. When it did, all they could do was hope that they would have time to regain the altitude lost to downdrafts, before hitting a mountain. Many planes were not able to accomplish that and sadly did not return to base.
They flew when it was needed and it was always needed. Bad weather conditions didn’t delay flights. Often they even took off with limited visibility, using only their instruments. Their goal was to get to the landing strip at the other end of their flight in Kunming, China, and deliver their loads before their crafts ran out of fuel. At times they were forced to dump the payload in order to hold altitude when the plane had lost an engine, and landing on an airstrip that looked like a vacant lot, in almost zero visibility, was also a part of the story. The loss of 1000 aircraft on this route earned it the sad nickname, “The Aluminum Trail”.

After the war with Japan was won, when most of the pilots headed back to the states, Floyd was assigned to support the Nationalist Chinese, led by Generalissimo Chang Kai-Shek as they fought a civil war with the Communists led by Mao Tse-tung. This involved U.S. missions airlifting Chinese troops, equipment, and supplies into the battle areas. Floyd continued moving troops, tanks, trucks, and cannons for use in the Chinese Civil War, until it became clear that the Nationalists could not hold on to the Mainland. The Chinese Army escaped to the island now known as Taiwan, and all American personnel were pulled out of the China mainland. Floyd completed 50 missions during his time in WWII China and the Chinese civil war.
Floyd’s 51st mission was the safest and best as he returned home to America and his dear wife Ludie and was introduced to his baby daughter, Nancy. He was given some treasured awards for his war service, but this reunion was the best thing of all. He would later have a son he named Roger (after a buddy who did not live through the war) and seven grandchildren, one of which was named Andrew. Roger and Drew Cook are a part of your pastoral staff here at Southside.

At the end of his life he was not afraid to take that final flight into eternity. When he fell and broke his hip, he woke up from surgery and found himself with a breathing tube in his throat. His firm “do not resuscitate” order had been violated due to post surgery breathing difficulties. I was in church when I found out about the crisis, and I knew he would be angry that his wishes were not followed. Before I could get there, he had solved the problem. Despite being strapped down, he was able to pull himself upward into a sitting position. He then proceeded to bend his head down to one of his tied down hands, hook his thumb on the mouthpiece of the ventilator and remove it from his lungs. The nurses asked me what to do and I told them that his actions and instructions were crystal clear. As per his instructions, I directed them to make him as comfortable as possible. He died peacefully the very next day, full in years and covered by God’s grace.

Captain Floyd T Cook was a WWII hero, a father, a grandfather, and a faithful family man who lovingly served his wife through her sufferings and eventual death from Alzheimer’s disease.
Of all the things Floyd did in life, one event stands out above the rest. It was on that day in Detroit, Michigan when a seventeen year old girl led her seventeen year old boyfriend to faith in Jesus Christ. An eternal war forever was won in his heart. It was the greatest choice he ever made, and the greatest victory he will ever know.

Now the bell has tolled and the story has been told. Does your legacy to those that follow you contain that eternal choice? If it does, praise God. If a life changing choice to call on Jesus as your personal Savior is not a part of your life, it can be.
Isn’t God’s grace a wonderful thing!

Roger Allen Cook

I love to write stories about God’s grace.  If you have a story I should consider, please contact me at:    

Other stories can be viewed at
The Last Flight

My father was a pilot in the United States Air Force during WWII and served in Asia flying a C-46 over the Himalayan Mountains in a region known as the Hump. Although it has been over sixty years since that time, I still consider him a soldier. This is dedicated to him and all those who fought with him to defend this great nation.
They came from every direction
From families large and small.
They launched out on a mission
And answered their nation’s call.

They flew on wings made of steel,
And the dangers of war they faced.
Strong hands controlled their craft
As those powerful engines raced.

In time the great conflict was won
Although costing a terrible price,
As too many members of the band
Made life’s ultimate sacrifice.

Now time has become the enemy.
Years have so quickly passed by,
Witnessed by losses in the ranks
Of that old gang that used to fly.

Yet in the minds of all who remain,
Keen remembrance of days before,
When they took great metal birds
And through the clouds did soar.

There is one very special mission
All old pilots are required to take.
The call comes from Headquarters.
It’s a flight that we all must make.

This one last flight is like no other,
For our God has planned the way.
He alone will determine the place
And choose the time and the day.

When Operations sends out the call
Those pilots who have sailed on air,
Will take their last earthly flight,
To a place that God has prepared.

Roger Allen Cook
Dedicated to the members of the Hump Pilot’s Association and American aviators everywhere. Rev. Cook is the son of Floyd T. Cook, pilot,12th ComCar Sq. 3rd Gp. Myitkyina, Burma