"Dr. Cooke was the only medical officer for this group of small ships and had temporary quarters aboard each of them. In cases of medical emergency he was transferred from one ship to another in mid-Atlantic by hi-line breeches buoy, a cold, wet, and terrifying experience he never forgot. He was discharged from the service in 1946 with the rank of Passed Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Public Health Service Reserve, equivalent to the rank of Lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Navy. After the war he returned to his hometown, Elkin, NC where he practiced medicine for the next forty years. He always regretted not being able to finish his surgical residency, but by the end of the war he had a wife and child and student loans to repay. He intended to complete his surgical residency at a later date, but the time never came. His medical practice was as a General Practitioner, a "GP" (called "family practice" today), and for four decades he treated families over a three county area of Western North Carolina, with office hours seven days a week and house calls five nights of the week. He also performed hundreds of surgical procedures over the years and delivered over 5,000 babies. Dr. Cooke died April 10, 1997 at the age of 89.
The remarks here are reproduced as accurately as possible from his hand-written "Daily Log" and have not been edited for spelling or punctuation. They mirror his verbal recollections and reflect the boredom of the experience interspaced with interesting, and occasionally frightening events."
[Ralph M. Cooke, Jr., 2005]
DAILY LOG - Ralph M. Cooke, M.D.
Friday September 8, 1944 - Brooklyn Navy Yard - N.Y.C.
After reporting to district personnel office I was logged aboard the USS Mills (DE383) this a.m. after assignment to this ship by Commander Vetterick.
There are six Destroyer escorts in this Division Viz-
USS Sellstrom - 255 Flagship USS Ramsden - 382 USS Mills - 383 USS Rhodes - 384 USS Richey - 385 USS Savage - 386
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I was told by the Commander that my travel will be first on one ship, then the other, for periods of a month or two. Was assigned a stateroom just off the wardroom by the ships Exec. officer, Lt. Ringling - this is small but comfortable. Brooklyn Navy Yard is quite a show to me. This ship is tied up alongside an emense crane called the "Hammerhead." There are a number of other similar ships at this pier and some much larger ones nereby including Destroyers and aircraft carriers. There are several large craft now under construction in the yard, therefor the noise is constant. Rode the trolley and subway trains to and from Times square tonight. Saw a movie which was a complete "flop."
Saturday September 9, 1944
Inspection of the ships sick bay shows a fair amount of materials and supplies. Dr. Comstock, PA Surgeon (R) PHS (Passed Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Public Health Service Reserve), whom I am relieving, showed me something of the set up and the papers to be handled. Our chief Ph. Mate (Pharmacist Mate) is apparently quite capable and enthusiastic. I'll contact the other Ph. Mates at the first of the week. Scuttlebutt is that we will lie in port until about Sept. 20-22. Destination is, of course, secret.
Sunday September 10, 1944
Slept late the a.m. Sunday aboard ship in port is a rather long and tiresome day. We had three guests for noon meal. The Mills was put in dry dock this p.m. at about 7:15 p.m. Three tugs came over to the pier and worked us out into the slip and across to No 1 dock. These powerful little tugs are very interesting. The ship was backed into the dry dock c little apparent effort. The floating gate was lowered into place and the water quickly pumped from the dock. Ship is in dock for minor repairs to the hull, zinc plates and sound head. This entire dry docking procedure was extremely interesting to me. The apparent ease with which she is handled is impressive. Thirty tons of wt. were put over the aft deck because the ship had a forward trim of 24". All ammunition and practically all fuel have been removed from the ship at present. After the ships gang plank was replaced and all secured in D.D., Mr. Waldron the first Lt. and I walked over to the officers club. This is really a "swank" place c various games facilities, dancing etc.
Aboard and to bed.
Monday September 11, 1944
Day passed with the ship in D Dock and very little of anything out of the ordinary. The ship was taken out of D Dock about midnight after her hull had been scraped and a new coat of paint applied. We are now tied up at pier C and work aboard is still in progress.
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Tuesday September 12, 1944
Made a tour of inspection of the sick bays of three of the vessels this a.m. A new autoclave is being installed in the sick bay of the Sellstrom. This will alleviate the carrying of materials to a Marine Hospital for sterilization. The afternoon has been a rainy one and I have done a cleaning job in my state room.
Wednesday Sept. 13, 1944
Rained practically all day and there has been little of any interest going on aboard ship. I went ashore this evening for a while. Got wet , but saw some interesting things in the forge shop here in the yard. Went in to Hudson and Jay Hospital this a.m. after a lot of travel difficulty. Saw Clyde Ritter and Dr. Rasen there and bought a few articles from the CG Supply store.
Thursday Sept. 14, 1944
Cloudy but not raining this morning. Went aboard the remaining three ships for and inspection of Sick Bay. Took a nap this p.m. Weather is foul tonight. Radio reports a severe storm to hit the East Coast some time tonight. Rain is now coming down in sheets and __?__ is quite high, so can't get ashore tonight.
Friday September 15, 1944
Storm c high winds did considerable damage last night. I turned in fairly early and was awakened by the storm just before midnight. A cammel (?) alongside the ship kept pounding against the side.
When I got up this a.m. the sky was practically clear. I'm going to Buffalo for the week-end as this will be about the last chance I'll have to get away before we sail [Dr. Cooke's wife and daughter were at the time living in Buffalo]. Leaving Ground Control at 4:00 p.m.
Monday September 18, 1944
Spent the week-end in Buffalo and thoroughly enjoyed it. Saw most of the gang at the Marine Hospital, went over to see the Goulds and stopped by to see the Kalinowskis on my way to the station on Sunday night. Arrived in NYC at 8:00 a.m. today a little tired from the trip. Nothing of any interest has happened here over the week-end, but had mail from home when I returned.
Tuesday September 19, 1944
A dull day aboard ship while work and painting goes on. Routine sick call of no interest. A couple of exams and a few minor cases. Went ashore this evening.
Wednesday September 20, 1944
All hands were given instructions to be aboard by 6:00 a.m. today. Two tugs pushed us out into East River at 8:30 a.m. and we were under way. We ran out of New York harbor through Chappel Hill
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Channel, passed numerous cargo ships, patrol boats, ferries and tugs; two large transport vessels were in bound among these. Yanks in Khaki lined the rail on all decks. They maintained complete silence as we passed; we were too far away to recognize for us. After a short run we sighted "Sandy Hook" and came into Sandy Hook Bay. At about 10:45 we tied up at the pier of the Naval Munitions Depot at Eden, New Jersey, and the arduous task of loading 180 tons of ammunition was begun. This required all the remainder of the day and was finished at 1:30 a.m. The crew was practically exhausted. One carload of ammunition for the 3 inch guns had been delayed, and we were late in getting under way again. I went to bed at 12:00 midnight and the port holes were soon made secure as were the hatch doors and covers on the main deck. It was raining when I turned in. I was awakened at 3:00 a.m. from the ship's roll and pitch. The roll is so pronounced that I supposed we had run into foul weather. I was tumbled from one side of my bunk to the other and had difficulty in getting to sleep again. We were finally under way and headed out to sea.
Thursday September 21, 1944
The Chief Pharmacist Mate awakened me at 6:00 a.m. and asked me to look him over as he was having some trouble with his heart. He had been awakened a few minutes previously by a crewman who wanted an aspirin. For some reason he was very much frightened when he awoke and soon began having cardiac difficulty. He was white as a sheet when he reached my stateroom. He had a paroxysm of aurionlary fibrillation which responded to ocular pressure and pressure on his carotids. I went back to bed. I got up again for breakfast at 8:00 and then went immediately on deck only to come back quickly for a coat. On the second deck I got my first real taste of the open sea. The sky was as clear as it could be and the sea only "choppy." Low waves were striking our port side amidship and broad side. This was a very impressive sight to me. Millions of little white caps as far as the eye can see, and the horizon a sharp blue line on all sides. The wind is brisk and quite cool and refreshing. Our course, I learned, was O57 which means that we are running some where near North East by East. Our present destination is a point a few miles off Montauk Pt. where we are to go through a training program c the rest of the flotilla, submarines, aircraft and so forth. The rumor is that we will remain in this vicinity for about four days and then return to New York and will be available for convoy duty soon thereafter.
Friday September 22, 1944
Under way at 7:00 a.m. today for practice in submarine detection. Most of the day has been spent at this and in working out navigation and battle problems, all of which means little to me. Dropped anchor at 10:30 p.m.
Saturday September 23. 1944
A good part of the day has been spent in formations, calibrations of instruments, etc. A dull day for me c very little in sick bay. Wrote a few letters.
Sunday September 24, 1944
Antiaircraft practice a.m. and p.m. today. A navy plane towed a target sleeve overhead for several practice rounds today. Our ship shot down the target this p.m.
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Monday September 25, 1944
Maneuvers have been finished and we are still underway - back to NYC tonight. A dull day for me. We will dock at 36th Street pier in Brooklyn at 9:00 a.m.
Tuesday September 26, 1944
Had a few patients to see today. Most of the officers and crew are on shore leave tonight. The day has been dull since we are in port waiting to sail.
Wednesday September 27, 1944
A day wasted - save a few patients but there was nothing of any interest went on today.
Thursday September 28, 1944
Have gotten things in shape for sailing. The hour is said to be 4:00 a.m. More ships have anchored in the harbor, presumably more of the convoy. To bed.
Friday September 29, 1944
At sea this morning. We are to pick up our convoy position at 10:00 a.m. The sea is quite rough. We are now avoiding a convoy headed South, I'm told to Africa. Our convoy position taken about 10:00 a.m. We are free-scouting the port lead which is the North East position. There are some 45 ships in the convoy and its speed is to be 12.5 knots. There are ten troop transports in the convoy; we are never close enough to make out anything but the outline of the ship. The sea is quite smooth today & tonight.
Saturday September 30, 1944
The weather is still good and the sea relatively smooth today. Nothing of any particular interest has happened today. We are still patrolling at will on the NE corner position of the convoy. Radio from N.Y. is still coming over well. Heard part of a game this p.m. and got several scores tonight. Saw a whale spouting off the starboard beam this p.m. We passed great sheets of Kelp on the surface. Flying fish and occasional porpoise seen. It has been a dull day aboard ship.
Sunday October 1, 1944
Slept late today. The weather is getting a little rougher this a.m. Waves are running higher, the wind is strong from the N.E. Ship is rolling and pitching quite a lot, but as yet I've had no sea sickness. It is getting quite warm now that we are coming out into the Gulf Stream - it was quite cool when we left N.Y. Wind is fierce and the sea is high.
Monday October 2, 1944
Wind is high this a.m. We are bucking a high sea and it is hot and depressing. The barometer has been falling for the past two days. We are now just south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and at about long. 50. The storm is slowly growing in intensity. It is now impossible to get on the main
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deck and heavy spray is almost constantly passing over the boat deck. Dish boards were put on the table for the evening mess. Even then it is difficult to sit at the table and to keep ones dishes and silverware from getting away from him. The roll and pitch of the ship make it almost impossible to get about at all, but I'm not sea sick so far. If I go through this one without any trouble I'll think I'm a sailor. So, to bed, although I do not believe it is at all possible to sleep c the ship rolling as it is.
Tuesday October 3, 1944
I was not able to sleep at all last night. Things not well secured are strewn around the wardroom this a.m. Our room looks like a hurricane has passed through it.. The sea is still very rough and the ship rolling and pitching badly - I'm still not sick in the least. It is impossible to do any work in the sick bay - one can scarcely stand up. The wind has now shifted around and is blowing squarely across our starboard side. The barometer has risen a little, but the wind still strong and the sea high.
Wednesday October 4, 1944
The weather is improving some today - Barometer still rising a little. The sea is still rough, but not nearly so rough as past two days have been. I slept very little last night. p.m. - Weather pretty nice now. Wind still strong and cool. Time drags along and I read a good part of the time. Night - Just down from the flying bridge - It is pretty clear now and the moon shining brightly. The wind is brisk and cool. The sea is choppy and the ship rolling only moderately. We got the broadcast of the first World Series Baseball game at dinner tonight. St. Louis Browns 2, St. L. Cardinals 1.
Thursday October 5, 1944
A beautiful day at sea today. Wind fresh & cool and the sea relatively calm. I feel like a million dollars today. It hardly seem possible that we have been at sea a week today. We are past mid-Atlantic now and have been following our East Northeasterly course. This puts us some 400 miles north of the Azores. I've seen a number of birds today and numerous flying fish and porpoise. Evening. Listened to the 2nd W. Series Base Ball game tonight at and after dinner, then spent an hour or so on the flying bridge c Lt. Cherry who has the evening watch. It is now clouding up heavily. I saw the moon come up over the horizon - a huge orange ball seemed to fairly jump out of the water. It was soon hidden, however, since it is cloudy in the N.E. The wind has gotten up some but the sea is not rough as yet. We have had reports of five submarines in the North Atlantic; the nearest is reported as being quite some ways to the north, however. We are going to have a depth-charge drill at 0900 tomorrow. The new charges are different in that they are fired magnetically as well as by depth pressure and the officer, Lt. Everett, who is assigned to the Division is traveling with us and wants to obtain some timing data on these charges. I understand that our convoy of about fifty ships will be divided into three parts when we near our destination and these three parts all go to different ports. Presumably the troop transports, of which
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there are said to be ten or twelve, will go to Cherbourg. I have a hunch that we will go there too, but even Captain Pfeiffer doesn't know yet where we will go.
Friday October 6, 1944
This has been a most uneventful day except that we got another of the world series Baseball games by short wave radio this evening. The sea has been quite calm all day and I will probably be able to sleep tonight. I'm just down from the flying bridge where I spent an hour in the fresh and invigorating cool wind. Clocks are to be turned back again tonight. This turn back will put us in Greenwich or Zero time.
Saturday October 7, 1944
This has been quite an exciting day. About 9:00 a.m. we pulled alongside a large troop transport in the convoy to take off two navy med. officers by Breeches Buoy for transfer to a merchant vessel one of the crewmen of which is thought to have an intestinal obstruction. These three (?) Doctors, Pierce, Davidson and another whose name I cannot recall, had coffee in our wardroom while our ship eased over alongside the merchantman. They were then transferred to the vessel c their gear and a navy Ph. M. All went well and nobody got wet. At noon chow the submarine contact signal was sounded and all hands went to general quarters. About a dozen depth charges were dropped and the escorts on this side of the convoy scouted the area for some time, but no further contact was made c the sub. We were then ordered back into position and proceeded on our way. It is cold and cloudy tonight and a moderate wind is out to the East. The sea is not very rough, however. I wrote a few letters tonight and now to hit the sack.
Sunday October 8, 1944
Another rather dull Sunday aboard ship. I got a CIC/TBS phone call from the USS Savage Ph. Mate at 9:10 this a.m. regarding a sick crewman who apparently has a Gastro-intestinal upset. Two subsequent reports have failed to indicate any very alarming findings if I can rely on what this bird tells me. We are nearing the Southern Coast of England tonight after an almost uneventful Atlantic crossing. I have just been to the flying bridge and could see buoys and light stations along the shore off our port bow. We are to go into the Irish Sea, then across the Bristol Channel where we will leave our ships (of convoy) for the port of (blank). We will then come out into the Irish Channel and travel northward probably to (blank). I'm told that we should reach the first of our destinations about midforenoon. It is midnight and I'm ready to sack in for the night.
Monday October 9, 1944
This has been a nice day so far as the weather goes. We ran into the Bristol Channel this morning. This Channel is direct by north of the English Channel being separated from it by a peninsula
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of the Southernmost portion of Wales whose outermost point is Cape Cornwall. The sea was quite calm all day. After escorting a portion of the convoy some distance up the Channel (I believe they were going to Bristol) we turned back in the Channel and entered the harbor of Milford haven. A Pilot came out to the gate and brought us into the harbor where we tied up to a Buoy at 3:00 p.m. and waited until 6:00 p.m. in order to pull alongside a tanker in the harbor for refueling. Two Corvettes were fueling when we came in.
This is said to be one of England's best harbors and is certainly a very beautiful place. There are not very many vessels in port, however. The town, which is off our portside as we are anchored, looks to be 15 or 20 thousand. The buildings are all of stone or brick and it appears to be very clean. The shore line is very pretty coming into the harbor. High red cliffs on all sides with beautiful rolling hills behind them. There is practically no woodland to be seen and all the territory appears to be under cultivation. Practically all the fields are green and numerous flocks of sheep are seen here and there. One is at once struck by the orderliness and neatness of the appearance of the fields as they appear to be very neatly fenced and laid out in practically square fields. The landscape rolls considerably, but is not steep and there is enough growth of trees, which appear to be in hedgerows between the fields to add to the beauty of the whole picture. Aircraft constantly patrol the harbor and surrounding area. The town and harbor are almost completely blacked out tonight. We are still taking on fuel oil (10:00 p.m.). I have prepared a request to the Captain of the port and will go ashore in the morning if we remain here. However, I hear we may get underway in the a.m. and go further up the Channel to dock, possibly to another town.
Tuesday October 10, 1944
Went ashore this morning with Captain Pfeiffer - we called for a car to take us from the pier to the local Royal Navy base - soon a Wren appeared in an English automobile, steering wheel on the right, and proceeded to make our hair stand on end while she dashed us toward our destination. Driving on the left side of the street certainly is very peculiar at first. I visited the Port Sanitation Commissioner, Dr. Williams, from whom I got a bill of health of the port. This is required by our Navy Medical Regulations. We came back to the ship as soon as our business was taken care of. Liberty was granted to the crew this p.m. I went ashore in the ship's motor whale boat at 3:00 p.m. c others of the officers. We looked around the town for a while, but I could not find anything in the way of a present of any kind for my girls, but did find a few post card pictures of the place. We got some money changed and tried to learn how to count English money. We then went to the Officers Club at 32 Hamilton Terrace. There we met a Lt. Tilford of the Royal Canadian Navy with whom we talked for a couple of hours. He is a most interesting and congenial fellow, and is one of the officers of the Korvetts tied up near our ship. We also met one of his associates, a young chap c a long red beard whose name I can't recall - he is from Scotland. We went to the bar at this club and I tried to drink English Beer - it is black and putrid, but the others, especially the English officers, seemed to like it.
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We had dinner at this club. The meal was quite alright, but not so very sumptuous - cost was 4 shillings.
After dinner we went across town some distance on foot and in complete blackout to another club called the Starboard Club. We were told before going that there was to be a dance at this club and that there would be an orchestra there. The orchestra consisted of a piano and a drum. The dance floor was large enough for a half a dozen couples, but there were probably fifty or sixty people trying to dance on it. We met several people and saw several of the English officers whom we had seen at the R.N. Base in the forenoon. We met and danced c a few Wrens. I got a big kick out of their brogues, but none of them could dance worth anything. One big heavyweight pulled me around the floor for a while. She was from Scotland and I had some difficulty in talking to her. One little short girl from London whom the others called "Johnnie" was quite a comic. She said she had not seen any chewing gum in six months. I gave her part of a package that I happened to have in my pocket. Out liberty boat left the Harkin Pier Head at 11:00 p.m. so Johnnie and the big Scotlander showed Lt. Vendline (actually, it was Lt. "Vedrine") and me how to get back to the boat. They sent us over a route that we did not know - leading through town's fish market. We found the way only by the help of an English Policeman and by following some Limies. It was black as a cellar, but the Limies appeared to have no difficulty in finding the way. Home and to bed.
Wednesday October 11, 1944
It was raining when I got up this a.m. and there was a cold wind blowing from the Southwest. After lunch the Captain and another of the officers were practically ready to go ashore in the motor whale boat when a storm broke. It poured rain, churned up the harbor and tossed the ships about like sticks. Several of the smaller craft in the harbor got under way to keep out of trouble. Two of our engines were started and ran at 1/3 speed for quite a while to buck the storm.
Thursday October 12, 1944
Moored in the harbor today with little of any interest happening. Went ashore to the ship's party tonight. Home & sacked in.
Friday October 13, 1944
A storm appeared to be coming up but we got under way at noon and went up to Barry Roads further up the Bristol Channel to convoy ships to Southern Coast of Ireland. A storm really broke here in the early afternoon. We rolled badly all the late p.m. and evening while at anchor in this little protected harbor. The anchor chain broke and we had to get under way after midnight to get out of danger for we were bearing down on a merchant vessel at anchor. We cruised about until midmorning and dropped anther anchor. The storm, which is the worst I've seen this far, was abating.
Saturday October 14, 1944
The sea has been very rough most of the day but we got under way at 6:00 p.m. and are now sailing out toward Southern Coast of Ireland. It is still quite rough. I'm told we will return to Milford
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Haven tomorrow and stay a couple of days before starting home. We have been on water hours all day for the harbor and channel has been very dirty. To bed at 10:45 p.m. as I slept very little last night.
Sunday October 15, 1944 and Monday October 16, 1944
Two dull days passed in port at anchor in Milford Haven harbor c nothing of any importance happening. I went ashore on Monday and sent a cable to Margaret (Anniversary) and had dinner at the Hamilton Terrace (?) Officers Club.
Sunday October 22, 1944
A very quiet an uneventful day at sea. The weather has been ideal. Nothing of any particular interest has happened. We passed my last ampoule of penicillin over to one of the DEs for Rx of a resistant case of gonorrhea.
Monday October 23, 1944
a.m. Another bright and sunny day with the sea fairly calm. I'll get some work done today.
Tuesday October 24, 1944
Another bright and sunny day at sea with very little in the way of excitement. Little work to do. My dental examinations are finished. Will make appointments when we get in NYC.
Wednesday October 25, 1944
The weather continues very fine and we are now making good speed. Very little in the way of any excitement has happened today.
Thursday October 26, 1944
A storm came up quickly this afternoon and we are rolling and pitching violently. I doubt if there will be any sleep for tonight. The wind is terrific and it is pouring rain (11:30). We are making practically no progress. (Next AM) The storm is even more intense this a.m. if possible. One of the ships in the convoy shifted her ballast last night and had to heave to. We dropped back c her and the other escorts continued on the original course although they could hardly be making any headway. This weather and delay will put us in port 3 or 4 days late I believe. It will probably be Sunday (Oct 29th) before we get in. The inclinometer registered a roll of 53 degrees last night. This is the worst roll we have had at any time although the sea isn't as high as it has been in the past.
Friday October 27, 1944
The storm rages on and I'm plenty tired. Haven't had any sleep in two nights. We are back on original course but making very poor headway.
Saturday October 28, 1944
Storm still blowing but is not quite as fierce as last night. There is quite some let up now (10:00 p.m.) And I hope for some sleep tonight. We listened to the Duke vs. Army football game this evening. We hope to sight Ambrose light by midnight. Our orders have been changed and we are to put
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in at Bayonne, N.J. instead of Brooklyn Navy Yard. This will be a little unhandy, but is very near NYC.
Sunday October 29, 1944
Slept last night. We anchored in harbor about 9:20 A.M. and tugs put us into the docks at 11:30 ______________________________________________________________________________
November 14, 1944
Sailed from New York
November 26, 1944
Arrived Liverpool England
NOTES FROM BACK OF LOG:
Things I saw in London -
Hampton Palace Court park from across the Thames at Thames Ditton, Surrey. Brushy park mile distant was Gen Eisenhower's H.Q. Westminster Bridge; houses of Parliament c Big Ben; St. Thomas hospital. Westminster Cathedral; monument to Richard the Lion Hearted; Westminster Abbey - Wm Pitt - Pitt the Younger; Tomb of the unknown soldier and of Nevil Chamberlain etc. Lincoln's memorial. Trafalgar Square & Lord Nelson's monument. Buckingham Palace; 10 Downing St., Piccadilly Circus; Haymarket; Lord Mayor's home; Bank of England and many others; St. Paul's Cathedral; Regent Palace hotel;
Mr. and Mrs. Harry F. Brooks
3 Queen's Drive
Telephone - Emberbrook -
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas R. Walker
Nonadel (?) 6, Queens Drive
Telephone - Emberbrook 3315
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Brothers of Mrs. Walker in NYC
1) Mr. Roland Moore
120 E. 61st Street - NYC
2) Mr. Don L. Moore
14 Rensselair Road
Essex Fells (Falls?), New Jersey
Friend of Henry Ringling (?) In London -
Miss Anna Kelly
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1 The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, Victory Edition, James C. Fahey, U.S. Naval Institute, 1973; www.NavSource.org/archives
[This diary was most graciously donated by Ralph M. Cooke, Jr. It has been reproduced here with his kind permission.]