James Olan Cook (1923-1991)
James Olan Cook was born in Farmers Branch, Texas on April 3, 1923. Growing up in Dallas, he attended Sunset High School before enlisting in the U.S. Army soon after graduation.
Cook joined the MFAA Sub-Section of the U.S. Group Control Council (USGCC) in November 1944. He served as a clerk-typist at headquarters in Berlin, working alongside Monuments Men Brig. Gen. Henry Newton, Lt. Col. Mason Hammond, Capt. Calvin S. Hathaway, and Cpl. John M. Phillips. Cook conducted general office work, including the important task of maintaining the office’s extensive card catalogue of detailed information on collections of art that had been looted. Organized and efficient, Cook was promoted to Chief Clerk within one month, supervising a team of clerks which included Monuments Men T/4 Charles J. DiRaimondo and T/5 Edward J. Boruch.
Following the German surrender, the work of the Monuments Men entered a new stage. Numerous significant repositories for looted art were found in salt mines, castles, and the cellars of churches and private homes. To help manage the resulting influx of intelligence reports and correspondence between Monuments Men working in the field, Cook was assigned temporary duty at the headquarters of U.S. Seventh Army from May to July 1945. After returning to the United States, Cook attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Cook died in Dallas on June 8, 1991 and was buried at Restland Memorial Park.
Photo courtesy of the Cook Family (private collection).