Seabury Cook


Alaskan’s Second Mate with the interesting name also had a very interesting life before this event and proved to be an invaluable asset to Master Greenlaw, and to their group’s survival. Unlike most of the officers that served on American-Hawaiian vessels I’ve detailed on this site, Cook had a brief career with the company and the U.S. Merchant Marine in general.

I originally included a basic biography of Seabury Cook with my initial release of the Alaskan’s story in September of 2012. While I was able to acquire his merchant mariner records at that time, his career was so short, they were of limited value.

For reasons which still remain a mystery to me (Was it his curious name, the oddity of a retired naval officer sailing as a Second Mate in the Merchant Marine, or perhaps the personality that came through in his story?), I never lost the interest in learning more about him, though I could only seem to get so far.

Over the years as my researching skills improved or I found new tools I would circle back and give his story another crack. Time after time, I ended up at a dead end.

His wife seemed to disappear from the post-war records and I wondered what became of her. His son was lost in the war; his story ending far too soon. His two daughters disappeared from the records as well, but the odds were that they had gotten married at some point, but to whom, and how would I find them?

Lt. Commander Seabury Cook from the 1931 US Naval Academy "Lucky Bag" yearbook.

I finally had a break-through in the fall of 2017, coincidentally right around the time of the fifth anniversary of my Alaskan page. I found his daughter Elise’s obituary from 1986, confirmed because it referenced her mother’s name. More importantly, it also provided the married name (Adam) of Seabury’s other daughter, Margaret. What had complicated matters further was that Margaret actually went by her middle name, Sydney, since the 1940’s. This is what made it so difficult for me to find her, but she proved to be the key and the information flood gates opened. Searching on her alternate names I found Sydney wrote a book about her and her parents interesting lives titled ‘VIEW FROM THE MOUNTAIN – A TWENTIETH-CENTURY MEMOIR’ (Two Pillars Press, Golden Colorado 1999, ISBN 0-9648754-1-1). She did so under the name ‘Sydney Bryden’, Bryden being the name of her second husband, who she married twenty years after the tragic loss of her first husband, Peter Adam. I immediately located and purchased a copy of the book on-line, and it answered many questions I had, and provided more clues to build on.

These breakthroughs led to this newly revised biography of this remarkable man’s life, and because of a six-fold increase in information, warranted his own page. I hope you find his story as interesting as I did.

Family Heritage

Seabury Cook was born on October 16th, 1895 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the only son of Mining Engineer Robert Anderson Cook (1861–1919) and Margaret MacIntosh Seabury (1861–1936), which was how his interesting name was derived. Over the years I’ve learned that combining family names was quite a common practice, especially for two prominent families like theirs. Seabury was given no middle name.

Robert and Margaret had three other children, Mary Seabury Cook (1886-1890), who died in childhood possibly from an influenza outbreak at that time, Margaret Seabury Cook (1889-1976) and Sydney Seabury Cook (1901-1950). Note the rather large spread in ages between the four children, spanning fifteen years.

The family was obviously also quite intent on honoring the Seabury name, a tradition that appears to have continued through subsequent generations to the present. The Seabury name goes back many generations, and the family can trace its deep roots back to our colonial history and back even further to Anglo-Saxon England. Seabury Cook’s seven-times great grandfather John (1600-1649) came to the Massachusetts colony in 1639. His son, Samuel, a doctor, was the first Seabury born in the Americas, in Boston in 1640. Samuel’s son John married Elizabeth Alden, the granddaughter of John Alden and Priscila Mullins of the Mayflower fame. Seabury was a cousin of Samuel Seabury (1729-1796), the first Episcopal Bishop in America. His father, also Samuel, was the brother of Nathaniel Seabury (1720-1760), Seabury’s four-times great grandfather. Another cousin, George J. Seabury (1844-1909) was a co-founder of Seabury & Johnson (which later came to be known as Johnson & Johnson) and developed what we know today as the band-aid. See here for more information about the Seabury family origins and notable figures.

The Cook side of the family was slightly less famous, but no less impressive as far as I am concerned and so I’ll provide more details on his paternal lineage; Seabury’s six-times great grandfather Ellis Cook (1617-1679) first came to the Americas in the late 1630’s as well, first to Lynn, Massachusetts. He originally hailed from Hertfordshire, England, just north of London and at least one tree on goes back to the 13th century and suggests the family may have it roots back to the Norman Conquest to a Robert LeCoke.

Ellis was a carpenter by trade and an early settler (c1644) of Southampton, Long Island (which was founded in 1640 by a small group also from Lynn, MA). In Southampton he met and married Martha Cooper (1629-1690) in 1646, the daughter of prominent fellow settler John Cooper. They raised a family on their farm on the north side of Mecox Bay, an area known as Water Mill, including their youngest son, Abiel Cook (1663-1740), Seabury’s five-times great grandfather. Of course this area is now part of what we call ‘The Hamptons’, famous for its luxury seaside mansions and quaint villages.

Seabury’s four-times great grandfather was Abiel’s 6th child (of 11), Ellis Cook (1703-1756), and was the one that made the move from Long Island to New Jersey, Hanover to be specific, which was where the family was based for the next several generations. He reportedly sold the property at Water Mill in 1747 and a few months later bought a 110 acre farm in Hanover. Ellis appears to have made the move to be closer to his wife Mary Williams’ family. In 1751 she was given a nice home there built by her father John Williams along with 40 acres of land. Sadly Mary died a few short years later in 1754, her father died the following year, passing the land to her sons.

Ellis, in turn, died the following year during the French and Indian War on March 17th, 1756, supposedly while in route to re-enforce British forces at Fort Oswego at the southeast tip of Lake Ontario. This is more than 210 miles as the crow flies, but more likely more than double that as they would have traveled north up the Hudson River Valley to Albany first, then west up the Mohawk River Valley in what at the time would have been unpopulated wilderness, and during winter no less. This was more than a week before a joint French and Iroquois force of several hundred men started raiding and destroying various British forts and supply depots between Albany and Lake Ontario so it seems unlikely he died in battle. Those who had wintered at the British outposts suffered from scurvy and malnutrition. If he died in route, it may have been from pneumonia due to the difficult travel conditions during winter. He was fifty-three years old when he traveled there with his two eldest sons, Williams and Ellis.

Fort Oswego fell to the French five months later in August of 1756 after a brief siege, and if Williams and Ellis had continued there, they were fortunate to have survived. The British garrisons were weakened by disease and the French forces outnumbered them by about 3 to 1. The siege only lasted a few days. The fort was actually three forts and it was noted that the smallest and least complete, known as Fort Ontario, was manned only by about 150 militia from New Jersey. It took the brunt of the initial assault which started the evening of August 11th/12th. As the French siege trenches drew near, the militia was ordered to abandon the fort on the 13th. The French then used these positions to bombard the main Fort Oswego across the river, which had no defenses prepared against their sister fort, and quickly surrendered on the 14th. 80 to 150 British were killed and 1,700 prisoners (including non-combatants) were taken to Montreal.

The younger Ellis had started a family prior to this event and then there was a five year gap before he and his wife began having children again, which lends credence to the possibility that he and his brother Williams were prisoners of the French or the Indians for many years.

It was fortunate they survived for Seabury as well, as Ellis Cook (1732-1797), the youngest of those two sons, was Seabury’s three-times great grandfather and became a very notable figure in Morris County New Jersey during the Revolutionary War era. He ended up with his mother’s home in Hanover, and ran it as an inn and tavern from about 1772 to 1779. It was known as the ‘Halfway House’ as it was halfway between the Sussex County farming region and the Newark markets. He also maintained a bridge over the nearby Passaic River, and reportedly would waive the toll if the traveler spent a night at his inn. Amazingly, the building survives to this day and is on the National Register of Historic Places, although the porch was likely full length back in the day, and three of the dormers were added in 1925.

Ellis Cook House, East Hanover, NJ. Photo courtesy of Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD via Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0,,_EAST_HANOVER,_MORRIS_COUNTY.jpg

He and his first wife Margaret Griswold Cocker (1735-1777) raised seven children there until her untimely death in the winter of 1777. Ellis and his second wife Lucy had three more children.

According to the National Register of Historic Places write-up, Ellis was;

a member of the New Jersey Provincial Congress in 1776, a member of the New Jersey Assembly from 1776-1790, a Morris County Judge (1793-97), Justice of the Peace (1793-97), and selected to New Jersey’s Governors Council for three years.

The Register goes on to note;

During the Revolution Ellis Cook served actively in the Morris County Militia as a Lt. Colonel. He was personally credited with having personally saved the East Jersey Proprietary records in the Surveyor-General’s Perth Amboy office just prior to the British occupation of the city in 1776

In 1777 Ellis was given a commission as ‘Colonel’, and was known as Colonel Cook the remainder of his life even though he later officially resigned his military commission to serve in the State Assembly. Ellis does not appear to have had any formal military training besides his experience in the French and Indian War, and at 44 years of age when the Revolution started, was likely more skilled at recruitment, organization and supply and did not lead any militia attacks or dramatic things of that sort. But he filled an important role in the revolution none-the-less, and appears to have been very well respected by his peers.

The Continental Army camped for the winter in nearby Morristown from January 6th to May 28th, 1777, right after their victories in the Battle of Trenton on December 26th (the famous Washington’s crossing the Delaware) and the Battle of Princeton on January 3rd. A smallpox epidemic started in the camp in Morristown that winter and some of the soldiers were taken to Hanover’s Presbyterian Church, which was used as a field hospital.

This is quite possibly when and how Seabury’s three-time great grandmother Margaret died prematurely. She may have contracted the disease while aiding the stricken patriots. I also believe it is quite possible that Ellis and Margaret at least saw, if not met, George Washington.

Margaret was buried in the church graveyard. Her rather elaborate brown sandstone marker has the following inscription:

"Here lies Interr'd the Body

of Margret Griswould

wife of Coll. Ellis Cook.

She Departed this Life

March 15, 1777 Aged 41

Years and 3 Months.

Here lies one bereav'd of Life

A tender Mother and a Loveing wife

Kind to Relations & a Faithfull Friend

Hapy in her begineng & double so in her end"

Washington appears to be aware of Ellis as he expressed concern in a letter written to a Brigadier General Dickenson on February 18th, 1777:

Sir: I am informed by a line from Genl. Maxwell that Colo. Cook’s and Conduit’s [sic Condit’s] Regiments of Militia from this County are to go home in a few days; How they are to be replaced I can’t tell.

Ellis’ militia reportedly helped cover Washington’s retreat the following winter to a place called Valley Forge. Morristown was used again for the winter encampment from December of 1779 through June of 1780, known as the 'Hard Winter'. In fact, the army, or elements of it, would stop or stay in this area throughout the Revolution as the Continental Army’s fortunes ebbed and flowed across New Jersey.

Ellis and Margaret’s second son, Zebulon Cook (1755-1810), born just before he left for Fort Oswego, was Seabury’s great great grandfather. He served in the Morris County Militia during the revolution as well, and as a young man, likely saw battle. After the revolution he was a farmer and raised seven children with his wife Mary.

Their fifth child, John Cook (1786-1863) was Seabury’s great grandfather. He and his wife Sarah appear to have lived all their lives as farmers in Hanover as well. They too raised seven children, and this farming heritage apparently had a major influence on their fifth child, George Hammell Cook (1818-1889), Seabury’s grandfather.

George H. Cook

Much has already been written about Seabury’s grandfather George, who passed away six years before Seabury was born. George had a keen mind and an adventurous spirit and was not content to be a farmer in Hanover, NJ. He was very aware of how challenging farming was, however, which would later influence his career.

According to the ‘Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society’:

In 1836 he served on the survey for the Morris and Essex Railroad, and then on that of the Catskill and Canajoharie road. In December, 1838, he entered the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, New York, and graduated thence with the degree of C.E. [Civil Engineering] in 1839.

The Society continued:

After graduation, Dr. Cook was employed as a tutor, then as adjunct professor, and from 1842 to 1846 as senior professor in the institute.

After a few years as a professor at The Albany Academy and a stint as a glassmaker, George moved to New Brunswick, NJ and became Chairman of Chemistry and Natural Sciences at Rutgers College in 1853 at the age of thirty-five. He had married his wife Mary Halsey Thomas (1821-1898) in 1846 and started a family.

Seabury’s father, Robert was the youngest of their six children, born in 1861 when his father was 43. George was instrumental in getting Rutgers designated New Jersey’s land-grant college under the Morrill Act, beating out Princeton, helping to insure the school’s continued expansion and success. According to the Rutgers Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources, his career as an educator bridged the gap to his farming heritage when:

The Rutgers Scientific School (as it was then called) was founded in 1864 as New Jersey's land-grant college, with George H. Cook at the head. A 100-acre farm on the outskirts of New Brunswick was purchased from the estate of James Neilson to serve as the school's experimental farm. (Rutgers was given 210,000 acres of what is now Utah under the Morrill Act, which was sold to establish the college and purchase land for the experimental farm.) That land is now the heart of the George H. Cook Campus.

Shortly thereafter George became Vice President of Rutgers College and State Geologist of New Jersey, his work during this time became the model for the U.S. Geologic Survey, and it was likely around this time he built his home known as 'Riverstead'.

While neither the Cook’s nor the Seabury’s appear to have had a seafaring or naval heritage, Seabury’s ancestors served in militia or army units when duty called in the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War and Civil War. His great uncle, Union Army Capt. Robert S. Seabury was mortally wounded during the first day of the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia in 1864.


Not much is known about Seabury’s youth other than he appears to have spent his entire childhood in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on land that would transform over the years into what is known today as the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University. It appears to have been a privileged life, living in what his daughter described in her book as a “substantial three-story brick house” on Bleecker Place, which his grandfather George had built in the late 1800’s. Sydney went on to describe it, supposedly from recollections of a visit in 1927, as a:

tall, formal, Italianate building-a mansion in my young eyes. The four of us were given the third floor to live in. (Dad always referred to it as “Aunt Anne’s garret.”)

Sydney was only 3 at the time, so I assume the details came from later conversations with her family.

Most of us would likely refer to it as a mansion as well, and census records noted an in-house maid/cook. The street and building no longer exists, and is the green space known as Voorhees Mall which bisects the College Avenue campus , but his grandfather’s home ‘Riverstead’ still exists on the corner of George Street and Seminary Place overlooking the Raritan River (or at least before and after the Johnson & Johnson factory extended that far).

The home on Bleecker Place is a bit of an enigma as well. No known clear portraits of it seem to exist. I reached out to the New Brunswick Historical Society, but did not receive a response. An inquiry to the Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives sounded promising at first, but despite much effort they were not able to find a direct portrait of the home either. A photo of Seabury with his wife, father and Aunt Anne in his daughter’s book identified as being taken at Bleecker Place do not show the building at all, just a garden with an arched vine covered trellis. In the top photo below (likely taken during WWI), three homes can clearly be seen on Bleecker Place, right of center in this view looking northeast. The turreted Victorian on the upper portion of Bleecker is identified in multiple sources as the original Delta Upsilon fraternity house. Of the two homes on the lower portion, the larger towards center seems to be the best candidate, but neither seems to match his daughter’s description very well.

When Seabury lived there, much of the campus had yet to be built, and what few buildings were on the block appear to have been residential, with fields and farmland separating them. The exceptions were the iconic red brick New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (now known as New Jersey Hall), built in 1889 at the Hamilton Street end of Bleecker Place, and the Ballantine Gymnasium on the corner of George and Hamilton Streets built in 1894, just before Seabury was born. The Ralph Vorhees Library on the right was built in 1903 when Seabury was eight. In the center of the current campus, what is now known as Murray Hall was not completed until 1909 with Milledoler Hall completed in 1910. Ford Hall on College Avenue was not built until 1915.

In 1908, at the age of 13, rather than attend the public high school, Seabury was sent to the private, all boy’s, Summit Academy (not to be confused with the modern charter school by that name) at 50 Woodland Avenue, James Heard A.M. Principal. The school was started in 1893, the same year as the famous Kent Place School for girls (where Seabury’s daughters would later both go). It was advertised as an “English Classical school for men and boys”. Principal James Heard (1860-1941) ran the school with his wife Helen from their home. He appears to have retired to Norwalk, CT around 1930 when the school was renamed Lance Academy, which eventually closed a decade later. It was known locally as “Jimmy Heard’s” for many years until it was demolished in the early ‘50’s to make room for the current Lincoln-Hubbard Elementary School.

According to his daughter’s book, Seabury’s older sister Margaret

always claimed that Dad was sent away to school because his father felt it was important to get him out of the household. Too many women, father Robert thought.

Summit Academy from the Summit Herald newspaper.

I believe it was simply part of their wealth and status, and the social norms of the day associated with it, that young men were sent to boarding school. Due to the large spread in ages between the siblings, in 1908 his older sister Margaret was 19 and a sophomore away at Smith College in Massachusetts, and his younger sister Sydney was only 7, and likely not much of an influence on Seabury. According to the 1910 census, however, the home was also shared with his two spinster aunts, Emma and Anne, and of course his mother.

Summit Academy appears to have been a three-year program as Seabury is noted next as being an alumnus of Rutgers Preparatory School, class of 1913. Not surprising considering his family’s affiliation with Rutgers.


Seabury Cook probably just prior to joining the US Naval Academy.

What is surprising is that upon graduating Rutgers Preparatory School in 1913, rather than move on to Rutgers College (it did not become a University until 1924), Seabury applied for an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.

According to the Jersey Journal newspaper, first, Seabury had to send a request to his Congressman, John J. Eagan, to take part in preliminary competitive examinations, which were conducted at Hoboken High School the first week of April, 1913. The results of those exams were that the two young men with the highest average were Harold Earl McLellan and Guido Frederick Forster and were appointed as the principal candidates. Seabury was first alternate to McLellan, followed by two other young men as second and third alternates. Three others were chosen as alternates for Forster.

The regular exams were conducted in Newark on April 15th, 1913 and apparently McLellan didn’t make it for some reason and Seabury scored the highest of the alternates and so took his spot. Forster moved on to the academy as well. One interesting note is that while all the other applicants were listed with a home street address, Seabury’s address was listed as the Grove Parsonage in North Bergen, so perhaps he had already moved out. I suspect, based on all these little clues, it was an interesting family dynamic.

It was quite a departure from the family traditions. His father Robert was an 1882 graduate of Rutgers, a Mining Engineer, and General Manager of iron mining companies, representing Portland Cement. His grandfather George, as noted, was a former Civil Engineer, Professor, Vice President of Rutgers College, State Geologist for New Jersey and held many other titles, board memberships, etc… too numerous to name here. Seabury’s older sister Margaret, as noted, went to Smith College (Rutgers was not co-ed until much later) and married an educator and missionary, the esteemed James Claude Thomson who was chairman of the Chemistry Department at the University of Nanking, China. They lived in China off and on (mostly on) from 1917 until 1949, where Margaret taught as well and was a neighbor and close friend of writer Pearl S. Buck. His younger sister Sydney also went to Smith and later married Herbert Brucker, former Associate Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism and editor of the Hartford Courant Newspaper.

Seabury was obviously charting his own course. His youngest daughter would later wonder why he chose the Navy as a career and postulated that President Theodore Roosevelt, and his enthusiasm for the US Navy in the early 20th Century may have influenced young Seabury. While possible, knowing what I now do about his life, I suspect it was a not-so-subtle form of rebellion. It may have been a small consolation if he had pursued a Marine Engineering focus at the academy, but he did not.

It would ultimately be a fateful decision for not only Seabury, but perhaps his son as well. Though seemingly quite different from the academic, religious and engineering pursuits of his immediate forebears, the common threads were service and sacrifice, and Seabury would prove to have both in abundance.

His nicknames at the Naval Academy were “Red”, “Doc" and “Sea”. In his youth his hair supposedly had a reddish tinge. According to his colorful yearbook page, which appears full of inside jokes (so much so they literally needed a glossary), Seabury was very well liked, at least by the yearbook committee (not all bio’s were so affectionate):

This is not the gink who discovered the North Pole – not a chance; he is not that frigid by any means.

Before the stencil ink had dried off his “works,” Doc knew everyone in the class and everyone knew him; furthermore he has kept all his friends. Red radiates good humor and friendship, and his presence adds that feeling of cheerfulness too often lacking in this narrow life of ours. Always generous and unassuming, he has worked his way into our hearts, there to stay.

Doc is not a savior; that is, he cannot assume a sagelike countenance before the carnal mark-recorders and expound indefinitely upon such useless bits of wisdom as the nebular hypothesis. Neither does he consider “The Calculus” good literature for the rational mind. But, in spite of all this, he has played the game consistently with his characteristic humor. While the Academic departments have been reaching and grasping singly and en masse for his scalp, Red has complacently watched the weeks roll by, waiting for hop nights, and has taken his 2.5 or better without cracking a book.

But as an athlete Doc has been more active. His strong point is swimming. For three years he has been one of the strongest members of the team, and has made his sNt every year. He takes to the water like a duck, and only our invincible Bobby has been able to kick water in his face.

Well, Doc, we’ve come to the parting of the ways. We expect you to go out into the Service, not as a rising genius, but just as you have been here; upright, thoughtful and agreeable. The world needs such men as you, and the Navy will welcome you with open arms, and, above all, the Class of 1917 is more than glad to have you with them.

Ensign Seabury Cook - Graduation photo from the U.S. Naval Academy "Lucky Bag" yearbook, Class of 1917.

Accomplishments and Clubs; Buzzard (nickname of the insignia of rank of a cadet petty officer – an eagle perched on an anchor), sNt (swimming Navy trophy – years 4, 3, and 2), Class Swimming Champion (3), Silver Swimming Medal (2), Manager Musical Clubs, Glee Club (4), Mandolin Club (4, 3, 2), Masqueraders (Theater Club - 4), Choir (2, 1)

I believe the “gink who discovered the North Pole” line at the beginning of his yearbook bio is in reference to Frederick Albert Cook (who happened to share the same last name, but was no relation), who’s claim of being the first to reach the North Pole in 1908 was later discredited, a gink in the vernacular of the day being “a foolish or contemptible person”. The honor would go to naval officer Robert E Peary in 1909, a considerable source of pride for the Navy, and something they no doubt covered at the academy.

Seabury was not at the top of his class for grades. The “2.5 or better” reference which I originally thought was his GPA is, according to the glossary, “The 62.5% score necessary to qualify as a naval officer”. He may not have been studious, but he was intelligent enough to figure out how to survive. 130 other members of his class did not make it to graduation. In a coincidence, Commandant of Midshipmen during Seabury's time was Captain Louis M. Nulton, who 14 years later would be a Rear Admiral and Commandant, First Naval District, Boston Navy Yard and give one of the commencement addresses at Bernard's graduation from the Massachusetts Nautical School.

Bobby was Robert Brooke Dashiell Jr., from Annapolis, who was the captain of the swim team. While Bobby could take Seabury in a shorter sprint, Seabury’s strength appears to have been in the 100. Dashiell’s father was a naval engineer of note.

1917 USNA Swim Team. Seabury Cook is seated in front row, third from left. From "Lucky Bag" yearbook.

Seabury’s participation in various musical and theater clubs may have been influenced by his spinster aunts, Emma and Anne, who as young ladies, reportedly took part in the dramatic club at Rutgers in the 1880’s, which took place at Riverstead, though they were not students there. They participated with the likes of William H.S. Demarest (Rutgers 1883), future President of Rutgers, William Chamberlain (Rutgers 1882), future Psychology Professor at Rutgers, Irving Upson (Rutgers 1881), librarian, registrar, Secretary of the Faculty and Treasurer at Rutgers and Martha Voorhees.

In her book, Seabury’s daughter echoed the accolades in his yearbook profile and described him as “a bright, athletic, popular boy who loved to sing, loved to laugh

USNA Cadets learning to sail from the 1917 "Lucky Bag" yearbook.

During his time at the Naval Academy, Seabury and his fellow cadets would go on three training cruises:

1. “Youngster Cruise” – June 6th to August 28th, 1914 to North Africa and Europe, visiting Tangiers, Gibraltar, Naples, Rome and London. Seabury was assigned to the USS Missouri (BB-11).

2. “Second Class Cruise” – June 5th to September 8th, 1915 to the Caribbean and West Coast, visiting Cuba, Panama, San Diego and Seattle. Seabury was assigned to the USS Ohio (BB-12).

3. “First Class Cruise” – June 3rd to August 28th, 1916 appears to have been a modified cruise off the East Coast, likely due to the war. Seabury was assigned to the USS Wisconsin (BB-9).

These were summarized in the whimsical map below from the yearbook.

Seabury’s class at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland graduated on March 29th, 1917, two months earlier than tradition, due to the Great War raging around the world. America declared war on Germany soon after on April 6th.

Below is an amazing photograph of the exuberant graduates racing out of Dahlgren Hall into an uncertain future.

Annapolis, Maryland, 1917. "Graduation exercises, U.S. Naval Academy." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. Photo courtesy of Shorpy Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints.

The Great War

According to his records, Ensign Seabury was first sent to Silver Lake in Chesham, NH where there appears to have been a training facility.

Seabury’s first sea assignment was on the Battleship USS Vermont (BB-20), to which he reported on April 2nd, 1917. Launched in 1905, Vermont was previously part of the ‘Great White Fleet’ that circumnavigated the globe in 1908-1909, and had occupied the port of Veracruz during the Mexican Revolution. This was when several of American-Hawaiian’s Atlantic fleet was trapped down the coast at Puerto Mexico (Coatzacoalcos) during the days of the Tehuantepec Railroad. Warship design was changing at a rapid pace during this period and by the time Seabury served, Vermont, now only a dozen years old, was already obsolete and relegated to training duties.

Vermont's (BB-20) crew line the decks as the ship makes slow headway into port, possibly after 26 August 1917 when she sailed for Hampton roads for duty as an engineering training ship in the Chesapeake Bay region. She performed that vital function for almost the entire duration of hostilities, completing the assignment on 4 November 1918, a week before the armistice stilled the guns of World War I. USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker. Text courtesy of DANFS.

Just a few months after graduation, on July 8th, 1917, Seabury became engaged to the beautiful Miss Elizabeth (aka Elise) LeHuray. Seabury was 21 years old, and Elise had recently turned 20. The story of how the two met has been lost to the ages (even according to his daughter’s book), but Elise hailed from nearby Summit, NJ where Seabury went to boarding school and had friends and she came from a well-established, respected family there, so the two would have likely traveled in the same social circles. Seabury had a classmate at the Academy from Summit as previously mentioned, Guido Frederick Forster, which could have been the connection as well.

Elizabeth’s grandfather, George Hartley LeHuray Sr. was a successful New York Banker and was an early real estate investor in Summit, helping lead to its development as a resort town in the 1800’s, a place for the wealthy to escape the city’s summer heat. Her father, George Hartley LeHuray Jr. was a successful lithographer.

On February 27th, 1918 Seabury and Elise married at the Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit, NJ, the LeHuray family church where all such important events took place. According to the Summit Herald newspaper announcement:

Another of the many weddings hastily arranged in Summit because of the war conditions occurred here yesterday afternoon in Calvary Church. Miss Elizabeth LeHuray, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George H. LeHuray, of Euclid Avenue, was married to Lieutenant Seabury Cook, USN, who is at present assigned to the USS Battleship Vermont. Rev. Julian Delamater Hamlin, brother-in-law of the bride, who has just left Camp Meade and today enters the School for Chaplains at Fort Monroe, Va., officiated.

The bride was attended by her cousin Claudia Elizabeth Kellogg, of Summit, as maid of honor. The best man was Lieut. Lowell Cady, USN, of Annapolis, Md. The ushers were Sidney Schieffelin Smith, of Geneva, NY, brother-in-law of the bride; and Ellis Cook of New Brunswick, a cousin of the groom.

The bride wore a gown of white satin and a lace veil, which was first worn by her mother, yesterday’s bride being the seventh to wear that veil. She carried a shower bouquet of sweat peas and lilies-of-the-valley. The maid of honor wore a gown of blue georgette crepe and carried red roses, thus carrying out the color scheme of the national colors.

While the wedding was hastily arranged in less than a week’s time, it was being planned for April and when war matters interfered the date was rapidly advanced

The bride is one of the most popular members of one of the older Summit families. The groom, who is the son of Mr. Robert Anderson Cook, of New Brunswick, has a host of friends here has he attended and graduated from Summit Academy. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

I first thought Seabury’s best man, Lowell Cady (1893-1965) was a classmate at the Academy, but a quick search of the year book proved otherwise, as well as a search of his upper and lower classmen. Lowell seemed to be an odd choice for a best man and I was not initially able to find many connections. He was born in Massachusetts to a Minister and Missionary and spent much of his youth in Japan, so he was not a childhood friend, nor did he appear to attend Summit Academy or Rutgers Prep with Seabury. Along with being two years older, Lowell attended the prestigious Phillip’s Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, then Amherst College in Massachusetts and was pursuing his Civil Engineering degree at M.I.T. when America declared war. He was actually a reserve officer that did not graduate from the academy, but was assigned briefly to Annapolis from December 3rd, 1917 to January 9th, 1918, well after Seabury had graduated. Lowell was obviously studious and an intellectual, which also did not fit. Finally I found that at the time of the wedding, Lowell was assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard in the Hull Division as an Assistant Naval Constructor, so that appears to be their connection as the Battleship Vermont was in the yard for repairs when Seabury was first assigned to her, but even so, they had known each other for less than a year. I assume his best mates from the academy were all in the same boat, pardon the pun, dispersed around the country and either on or preparing for their first assignments.

Seabury remained on the Vermont until August 31st, 1918. According to Vermont’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS) history, his time aboard involved the following events:

On 4 April 1917, Vermont entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard for repairs. Two days later, the United States declared war on Germany. The battleship emerged from the yard on 26 August 1917 and sailed for Hampton roads for duty as an engineering training ship in the Chesapeake Bay region. She performed that vital function for almost the entire duration of hostilities, completing the assignment on 4 November 1918, a week before the armistice stilled the guns of World War I.

Her service as a training ship during the conflict had been broken once in the spring of 1918 when she received the body of the late Chilean ambassador to the United States [ES: Santiago Aldunate] on 28 May 1918; embarked the American Ambassador to Chile, the Honorable Joseph Hooker Shea, on 3 June and got underway from Norfolk later that day. The battleship transited the Panama Canal on the 10th; touched at Port Tongoy, Chile, on the 24th; and arrived at Valparaiso on the morning of 27 June.

There, the late ambassador's remains were accompanied ashore by Admiral William B. Caperton and Ambassador Shea. Departing that port on 2 July, Vermont visited Callao, Peru, on the 7th, before retransiting the Panama Canal and returning to her base in the York River.

Photo #: NH 102654. USS Patterson (Destroyer # 36) off Cape May, New Jersey, while painted in disruptive camouflage during World War I. Collection of Christopher H.W. Lloyd. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. via Tony Cowart

Seabury was next assigned to the modified Paulding-class destroyer USS Patterson (DD-36), reporting for duty on September 14th, 1918. According to Patterson’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS) history, Patterson continued;

hunter-killer patrols along the eastern seaboard until the special hunting group disbanded 23 November 1918.

Patterson was the flagship of a special hunting squadron that included eleven submarine chasers known as the 'Patterson Group', which hunted the Kaiser’s U-boats from the Virginia Capes to New York.

The previous month, August, had seen a massive spike with 17 vessels sunk or damaged on the North American East Coast from Nova Scotia to North Carolina. During the last three months of the war most German U-boat activity was happening around Great Britain and in the Mediterranean, but the danger was not yet past on the eastern seaboard when Seabury’s USS Patterson patrolled, if not from direct engagement, then from the risk of mines they left behind:

September 20th, 1918 – American trawler Kingfisher sunk about 85 miles off Halifax, NS by U-155 (KrvKpt. Ferdinand Studt).

October 4th, 1918 - British sailing vessel Industrial was stopped and scuttled 250 miles SE of Nantucket Island by U-155 (KrvKpt.Ferdinand Studt).

October 4th, 1918 - American steamer San Saba was sunk after striking a mine off Barnegat Lighthouse, NJ that had been laid August 15th by U-117 (Kptlt. Otto Dröscher)

October 12th, 1918 - American steamer Amphion was damaged by gunfire 725 miles East of Virginia Beach by U-155 (KrvKpt. Ferdinand Studt).

November 9th, 1918 - American steamer Saetia was sunk after striking a mine 25 miles off Ocean City, MD, also by U-117 (Kptlt. Otto Dröscher)

His daughter seemed unaware of her father’s service on the Patterson in her book and assumed that her father had completely stayed out of the fray.

The First World War officially ended on November 11th, 1918. At the time known as Armistice Day, but what we now call Veterans Day.

The Roaring 20's

Shortly after the war, Seabury’s father Robert passed away in New Brunswick on January 7th, 1919. A year later, when the 1920 census was taken, their home was the only one of the three on Bleecker Place left standing, which may explain why the home was simply known as Bleecker Place in his daughter’s book. Oddly, his mother Margaret was not shown as the head of household, it was the oldest Aunt, 65-year-old Emma Willard Cook. With Seabury out of the house and his father now deceased, the home was occupied only by the female members of the family, Emma as noted, her sister, 62-year-old Anne Bigelow Cook, then Seabury’s 58-year-old mother Margaret, his 38-year old sister Margaret, his 18-year-old sister Sydney, and finally their 32-year-old Irish maid Bridget (aka 'Bea') Rock.

His sister Margaret had already been living in China and raising a family and was likely back to arrange for her mother to move to China for her remaining years.

Seabury stayed on the Patterson until the spring, detaching on April 19th, 1919 after her post-war decommissioning.

Margaret Seabury Cook circa 1917 passport photo courtesy of

U.S.S. Ericsson (DD-56) a little later than Seabury served on her. Original caption: "Photo #: NH 103514-F, USS Ericsson (DD-56) in the North River off New York City, 20 May 1921. Cropped from NH 103514, a panoramic photograph by Himmel and Tyner, New York. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph." via Paul Rebold

Seabury next reported for duty to the O'Brien-class destroyer USS Ericsson (DD-56) on April 23rd, 1919. Ericsson’s DANFS history states:

In May 1919, Ericsson sailed to the Azores to observe and support the historic first aerial crossing of the Atlantic, made by Navy seaplanes. After exercises along the east coast and in the Caribbean, she entered New York Navy Yard for repairs, and there was placed in reserve, still in commission, 7 August. She was laid up in reduced commission at Philadelphia and Charleston in the years that followed.

U.S.S. Turner (DD-259). Original caption: "Circa 1919-1921, location unknown. Photo from the collection of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum. " via Darryl Baker/Robert Hurst

On August 9th, 1919 Seabury was reassigned to the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Quincy, Massachusetts for the final fitting out of the new Clemson-class destroyer USS Turner (DD-259), and took part in her commissioning. Not much is known of Turner’s history at the time of Seabury’s service aboard her, only that she saw “duty along the east and west coasts”, between her commissioning in September of 1919 and her post-war decommissioning in San Diego in June of 1922.

His son Robert Seabury Cook, who I assume was named in honor of Seabury’s father, was born during his duty on the Turner, on January 23, 1920 in New York City, while Elizabeth was staying with family in New Jersey. Seabury received a Western Union Telegram from his father-in-law G.H. LeHuray which stated simply:

Robert Seabury born nine fifteen tonight Elizabeth and baby both well

U.S.S. Breese (DD-122), early 1920's, location unknown. Photo courtesy of Joe Radigan

On August 1st, 1921 Seabury was detached from the Turner and reported for duty August 8th on the Wickes-class destroyer USS Breese (DD-122). According to DANFS:

During October 1920 to June 1922 she participated in division maneuvers and fleet maneuvers with the Battle Force, in the Pacific, and went out of commission 17 June 1922.

A newspaper article from June 1921 noted that Lieutenant Cook attended a party in Seattle with other Naval Officers. In fact there were many references in various west coast newspapers’ social events sections during the early 1920’s of Seabury and/or Elizabeth attending various teas, luncheons, elegant dinners and weddings.

Elizabeth and Bobby circa 1922 passport photo courtesy of

Seabury left the Breese on March 7th, 1922 when he was ordered to the Twelfth Naval District in San Francisco and sailed for Manila, Philippines aboard the USAT Logan as a passenger. There is a heartbreaking story in his daughter’s book, a letter from Elizabeth to her parents actually, when Seabury’s vessel had to shove off and Elizabeth, in the last trimester of her pregnancy for their second child, stood dockside holding their son Bobby as he cried out repeatedly for his daddy. Seabury was officially transferred to the Asiatic Fleet on March 11th, 1922. Note that Seabury departed just a month before the Celestial (Arkansan) arrived back in San Francisco on April 20th from her inaugural round-the-world trip and Celestial’s sisters Mandarin, Oriental and Cathay were likely in port.

Luckily, as Seabury was being based in the Philippines, his young family was able to move there as well. But first Elizabeth, now eight months pregnant and with a two-year-old to take care of had to make the one month voyage solo on the steamer Argonne with stops in Hawaii and Guam along the way. She appears to have handled it with characteristic aplomb and had no shortage of passengers willing to help with the children.

His daughter Elise LeHuray Cook was born in Manila, P.I. soon after on April 18th, 1922. The name ‘Elise’ does not appear to be a family name for either the Cook’s or the Lehuray’s, but was Elizabeth’s nickname and of course they choose her maiden name for their daughter’s middle name.

Seabury was briefly assigned to the fleet oiler USS Pecos (AO-6) on April 29th, 1922 as her Executive Officer. According to her DANFS history:

During the two decades before the United States entered World War II, Pecos carried fuel to ships of the fleet wherever needed, operating in both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

U.S.S. John D. Edwards (DD-216), location and date unknown, though likely 1920's. Photo courtesy of David Buell

Lieutenant Cook was transferred to the Clemson-class destroyer USS John D Edwards (DD-216) on July 31st, 1922 when the Pecos fell in with the Destroyer Squadron at sea. He served as the Edwards Executive Officer until July 26th, 1924. According to the Edwards’ DANFS history:

Upon arrival at Cavite, P.I., 29 June [1921], John D. Edwards immediately began patrols to protect American interests in the Far East. She was to remain there for 4 years operating out of the Philippines in the winter and China during the summer.

Seabury’s first summer in Shanghai was just after the last of the four sisters departed for San Francisco, though he likely would have seen the American gunboats under construction at Kiangnan during his tour. His records indicate he took some leave while in China, so hopefully he was able to travel inland and visit his Mother, sister and her family including two young nieces and one nephew at that point. According to his daughter’s book, Elizabeth and the children spent summers with his Mother, sister and her family in China.

DANFS next noted about the Edward’s:

Continuing the Navy's long and distinguished record of missions of mercy, she gave vital aid to victims of the Japanese earthquake in 1923 and carried food and rescue workers to Yokohama. As the Chinese Civil War flared in 1924, the destroyer was on station to protect the rights of the foreigners in China.

His daughter Margaret Sydney Cook (aka Peggy or Peg to her family and later Sydney as an adult) was born on March 18th, 1924 at Fort John Hay, Baguio, P.I., north of Manila; her name obviously honoring Seabury’s two sisters.

Seabury sailed from Chefoo (present day Yantai), China about July 28th, 1924 aboard the USS Argonne, bound for San Francisco. The Argonne then travelled to San Diego on August 20th, where Seabury boarded the USS Henderson for transport to Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Around the same time, his little sister Sydney travelled to China on the SS President Lincoln to see her family, and perhaps get permission to marry.

On September 26th, 1924 Seabury reported to the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD as an instructor. His records indicate he had actually requested the assignment, as he had had no shore duty since his graduation from the Academy.

In December of 1925 his eldest Aunt Emma passed away, Leaving only Aunt Anne, his sister Sydney and their maid at Bleecker Place. Sydney had taken a trip to Europe that summer with her future husband and mother-in-law and would soon leave the house to start her own life.

Sydney Seabury Cook circa 1924 from passport application courtesy of

USS Milwaukee (CL 5) In a Pacific Ocean port during her shakedown cruise, circa mid-1923. Note the outrigger canoe in the foreground. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph #NH 46130.

After his stint at the Academy Seabury was assigned to the Omaha-class light cruiser USS Milwaukee (CL-5), reporting June 21st, 1926. According to DANFS:

Although she served primarily in the Pacific during the decades between the world wars, the highlight of her peacetime service came in the Caribbean. On 24 October 1926, Milwaukee and Goff arrived at the Isle of Pines from Guantanamo Bay to assist victims of a fierce hurricane which had devastated the island 4 days before. The American ships established a medical center at the city hall in Nueva Gerone, furnished the stricken area over 50 tons of food, replaced telephone lines which had been swept away, and maintained wireless communication with the outside world. The efficient and tireless labors of the crews won the respect and gratitude of everyone in the area.

According to his records, Seabury was “In charge of operations ashore Isle of Pines following Hurricane in Fall of 1926.

It was likely also during his time assigned to the Milwaukee that he received the 'Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal', the vessel serving in support of US forces sent to end the Civil War taking place there.

Seabury appears to have been back home in New Jersey by September of 1927, at least for leave, as he and Elizabeth were in a serious car accident in Farmingdale. Elizabeth reportedly received cuts and bruises when their car rolled over after being struck by another motorist. The other motorist was an off-duty motorcycle police officer who was on his way to a police convention in Atlantic City. The following spring the Cook’s were awarded $1,200 (over $17,000 in 2018 dollars) for Elizabeth’s medical expenses, but it’s unclear if they ever received it.

1929 found him back at the U.S. Navy Academy, where he reported July 29th as an instructor for their postgraduate school. He remained there until May 29th, 1931.

While there, in September of 1929, Aunt Anne sold the family home on Bleecker Place to the University. The Jersey Journal newspaper article described the home as a three-story brick building and noted it would be used for offices and general classrooms. Anne moved a short distance away, to 157 College Avenue, with her loyal maid Bridget Rock.


His time as an instructor at the Naval Academy was supposed to be for one year, but in October of 1930 he was allowed to extend for an additional year, and at that time he specified his preferences for sea duty once complete, which was:

1. Command of Light Mine Layer

2. Battleship

3. Special Service Squadron

During his duty at the academy he served as an instructor with the English & History departments. The English department in particular must have been interesting considering his lack of academic achievement when he was a cadet,

Perhaps more appropriately, he also served as the Plebe Coach for the swimming team.

Lt.-Comdr. Seabury Cook from the 1930 USNA "Lucky Bag" yearbook.

1931 USNA Swimming Squad. Lt.-Comdr. Seabury Cook is seated in front row, left end, wearing Navy sweatsuit. In original caption he was noted as being the Plebe Coach. Note the way his arms are folded in his lap and compare that to the later image of French Guiana survivors. From USNA "Lucky Bag" yearbook.

On March 27th, 1931 Seabury was ordered to the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. for temporary duty, then on to the Ninth Naval District, Great lakes, Illinois on June 29th, 1931.

He was detached July 6th and ordered to report “to the Commanding officer of the USS Dubuque at Detroit, MI for temporary duty in connection with the training of Naval Reserves”.

U.S.S. Breese (DM-18) underway on 11 December 1943 courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command, photo NH 107270 provided by Mike Green

Lieutenant Commander Seabury Cook reported for Duty as Executive Officer on the USS Breese (DM-18) on September 11th, 1931, under Lieutenant Commander Stuart E. Bray. As you may recall, Seabury had previously served on the Breese a decade earlier when he was a Lieutenant, and a Light Mine Layer was his first choice for assignment. The Breese had recently been overhauled and re-configured for that purpose. Per DANFS:

On 5 January 1931, Breese was re-designated as a light minelayer, with the hull classification symbol of DM-18. Following an overhaul and conversion at Mare Island Navy Yard, she was recommissioned on 1 June 1931. She then returned to San Diego for sea trials and standardization tests in her new role. These completed, she departed for Pearl Harbor.

From what I can determine, the conversion to a light mine layer involved removing the Breese's twelve 21" Torpedo launchers from amidships, one of her 3"/23 Gun Mounts, and adding one depth charge projector and two depth charge tracks to the stern.

Just two days after joining the Breese, on September 13th, while Elizabeth and the children were travelling to meet Seabury in California, their vessel, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company’s SS Colombia, ran aground off Baja California just after midnight. They and the 110 other passengers plus crew had to abandon ship. Complicating matters, the ship was listing to starboard so badly, the port lifeboats could not be lowered, so everyone had to be evacuated from the starboard side. Once in the water they had difficulty pulling away, and the next boat almost came down on top of them. They spent about 6-1/2 hours in the open lifeboats before help arrived at dawn. Per a newspaper article:

Robert Cook, 11, son of Lieut. Commander Seabury Cook, was aboard with his mother and sisters, Elise and Peggy. The boy, friends said, marshalled his women folk to the decks in capable style and saw them placed in a lifeboat after the best seafaring traditions of a nautical family.

SS Columbia and Captain Theodore K. Oaks

After the Columbia incident, during which the family sadly lost all their personal possessions including many family heirlooms, Elizabeth and the children continued their journey to Hawaii, departing San Francisco on September 23rd on the Matsonia and arriving in Honolulu on September 29th, 1931. They would spend the next 3 years there, at 800 Prospect Street, Honolulu, at the southern foot of ‘The Punchbowl’.

On March 8th, 1932 Seabury was given command of the Breese. According to DANFS:

She was assigned to Mine Division 1 of the Pacific Fleet, and operated out of Hawaiian waters. She conducted several training exercises, including with the submarine divisions where she served as a target ship. She also served as a station ship for aircraft.

In the fall of 1932, as Commanding Officer of the Breese, Seabury was recognized for Engineering Excellence attaining a merit in engineering of 111.473 for the year, which was the second highest score for his vessels class, and was 98.099% of the merit for the trophy winner (unnamed).

In June of 1934, he came painfully close again (99.565%) to winning the trophy for Excellence in Gunnery Competition for the Light Mine Layer Class, and although the competition provided no second place award, the result was so close the Navy felt compelled the allow the Breese to display a Red “E”, which was noted in a newspaper article dated July 18th, 1934:

Red & White E’s. Recent announcement of awards to vessels of the destroyer class were made by the navy department. The Breese, also of Mine Division One, was awarded the Red E. It was commanded by Lt. Comdr. Seabury Cook. Received special letter of commendation from the Navy Department.

Seabury was detached from the Breese on June 15th, 1934 (not unusual to change assignments after three years, and in fact he was one of her longest serving captains) and reported back to the Naval Academy on July 20th. It was a brief stay.


According to his daughter’s book, it was around this time that Seabury got in trouble for drinking. It was one of the major revelations about her father from her book. Since I found out, I struggled for many months whether to include this aspect of his life or not. As many biographies as I’ve done, I’m seldom given a glimpse of something so personal. I suspected something was up, based on events that would occur later, but could not quite put my finger on it. From my research to date, I had begun to admire Seabury a great deal. It’s a tough thing to accept when you find one of your hero’s is not quite a perfect as you thought. I ultimately decided to include this information as many people struggle with this addiction.

First of all, it was difficult to make sense of the order in which events transpired in his daughter’s book. The book was written during the twilight of his daughter’s life, based in this case of her memories when she was only eleven years old, some sixty year’s prior. The events in the book as such did not quite match up with the chronological milestones I would discover about his naval career. Of course the book was also primarily about her life, not specifically her parent’s lives, colored somewhat by her perspective and stated goal of the book to tie their family's personal moments to the major historical events of the twentieth century for her grandchildren.

For what I hoped would provide some additional clarity, I purchased Seabury’s naval records from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, and it helped a great deal. Three large manila envelopes was a lot of material to sort through and make sense of. Processing this information pushed my schedule out considerably, but I think it was worth it.

In Sydney’s book it appears that her parents had a very active social life when they lived in Hawaii. They were quite popular and attended many parties in which Seabury was often the life of the party, singing songs, playing guitar and of course drinking (yes, even during prohibition). The details in the book are quite vague, but Sydney asserts that her father got in trouble for drinking in Honolulu and that is why they departed Hawaii and her father was sent to the Philadelphia Naval Yard. According to his records, however, her facts were a little off and her timeline somewhat compressed.

There is no mention what-so-ever in his records that he got into trouble in Hawaii while he commanded the Breese. In fact, based on the awards and letter of commendation he received shortly before he left, he seemed to have been doing an exceptional job. According to his records, when he left the Breese in June of 1934 he was not sent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, he was sent to the Naval Academy as an instructor again. To the Navy it was likely viewed as an award, not a punishment. He sailed back in First Class on the SS Malolo (also not the treatment one would expect for a disgraced naval officer), which departed Honolulu on June 16th and arrived in Los Angeles on June 21st.

His records indicate it was actually at the Academy that he ran into trouble, but the records were short on specifics. Maybe he ran into an old buddy and got carried away. Maybe he was unhappy about leaving his command. Maybe he was stressed about the difficultly in arranging the timely transport of his wife in children from Hawaii to Annapolis (there were dozens upon dozens of pages in his records relating to this). Maybe his addiction just simply got the better of him.

For a thirty-nine-year-old Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, and a born leader like Seabury, I’m sure there was nothing better than living in a literal paradise with a wonderful wife, three great kids, and commanding a vessel like the Breese. He was in the prime of his life and at the peak of his career.

Seabury reported to the Naval Academy on July 20th, 1934. Just ten days later, on July 30th, the acting superintendent of the naval academy, Captain Ralston Smith Holmes (1883-1966), wrote a letter to the Chief of Bureau of Navigation, William Daniel Leahy (1875-1959), informing him that Seabury had “seriously committed himself”, his presence was no longer desired, disciplinary action was being contemplated, and requesting an immediate replacement.

By August 6th Leahy had written to the Secretary of the Navy, Claude Augustus Swanson (1862-1939), recommending that Seabury be brought to trial before a general court-martial. The trial was convened on August 20th at the Academy. Seabury pled guilty to Charge I: Drunkenness (4 specifications), and Charge II: Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Discipline (Neglect of Duty). He was sentenced to the loss of fifty numbers in his grade.

While extremely serious, it does not appear to be career ending at this point, although he was never invited back to the academy again. He was detached from the academy on August 27th and reported to the Philadelphia Navy Yard on September 1st, 1934.

It is unclear what, if anything, the Navy did back then to help him with his sobriety. His records noted a brief hospital stay shortly after the incident from July 27th to the 30th. It is important to keep in mind that Seabury’s incident at the academy occurred seven months after the repeal of Prohibition and Alcoholics Anonymous would not be founded for another year. According to Wikipedia:

In post-Prohibition 1930s America, it was common to perceive alcoholism as a moral failing, and the medical profession standards of the time treated it as a condition that was likely incurable and lethal. Those without financial resources found help through state hospitals, the Salvation Army, or other charitable and religious groups. Those who could afford psychiatrists or hospitals [like Seabury] were subjected to a treatment with Barbiturate and Belladonna known as "purge and puke" or were left in long-term asylum treatment.

Captain Ralston Smith Holmes, Commandant of Midshipmen, circa 1934

The Belladonna treatment may explain his hospital stay, and may have been to 'detox', which also involved ample amounts of castor oil. It was a misguided and ineffectual form of treatment.

The incident was, of course, devastating and extremely embarrassing to his family. Seabury and Elizabeth separated for a year. She must have been furious. Rather than go home to her parents’ house in Summit, in August Elizabeth took the girls to live with her Aunt Dora in St. Mathieu de Grasse, in the south of France about eight miles north of Cannes. Bobby, 14 at the time, was sent to the private Hoosac prep school in upstate New York. Seabury gave his home address as 105 Hilton Avenue, Garden City, NY, which was his sister Sydney’s home with her husband Herbert Brucker. His records also show Seabury was a member of the University Club of Boston and the Year End Club of New York at this time, two social clubs that likely did not aid his sobriety.

After what turned out to be a seminal year in France for Sydney according to her book, Elizabeth and the girls sailed home from Marseilles, France on May 30th, 1935 on the Exochorda and arrived in New York on June 12th, 1935. In an interesting note, the Texan’s Stanley Oliver was the Radio Officer on the Exochorda at this time. Seabury and Elizabeth apparently reconciled and settled in Philadelphia.

It was also around this time that the old family home on Bleecker place was sadly demolished to make way for the green space known as the Vorhees Mall.

Seabury’s Mother Margaret MacIntosh Seabury passed away the following year on 14 June 14th, 1936 in Nanking, China where as noted previously she was staying with her daughter and son-in-law. The situation in China was deteriorating rapidly. The infamous Nanking Massacre would occur a year and a half later.

Second Chances

Shortly after his mother’s death, Seabury was given a second chance and reported for duty as First Lieutenant and Damage Control Officer on the New Orleans-class heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37) on June 22nd, 1936. Per DANFS:

In May 1937, the Fleet again exercised in Alaskan waters and in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands and Midway, practicing the tactics of seizing advanced base sites, a technique later to be polished to a high degree into close support and amphibious warfare doctrines. Tuscaloosa, as part of the "augmented" Scouting Force, "battled" the Battle Force that spring.

USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37) at sea on 23 August 1935. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives - 80-G-414458. Photo courtesy of Ron Titus

Elizabeth and the girls sailed from New York on September 19th, 1936 on the Panama Pacific Line steamer SS Virginia and arrived in San Diego on October 2nd, 1936. They were originally due to travel in August, but the death of Elizabeth’s mother Hannah that month delayed things. As Bobby was not on the passenger list with the girls, it is assumed that he remained at Hoosac. He appears to have re-joined the family in Long Beach on June 21st after his graduation, when Seabury took a one day leave of absence.

In July of 1937 Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared in the Pacific while attempting their epic around the world trip. While in the Pacific at this time, the Tuscaloosa does not appear to have taken part in the massive search.

Unfortunately, also in July of 1937, Seabury relapsed. His second general court martial was convened on board the flagship of the cruiser force, the USS Quincy (CA-39) on August 2nd, 1937, and Seabury was found guilty of Drunkenness and sentenced to lose 100 numbers in his grade. Seabury’s Tuscaloosa was commanded by Captain Irving Hall Mayfield at this time. The Quincy, which would be lost five years later in the Battle of Savo Island in 1942 was commanded at this time by Captain William Faulkner Amsden. The Chief of the Bureau of Navigation was none other than Chester W. Nimitz, who deemed the sentence inadequate (although this appears to be a standard response in such cases).

Nimitz, it should be noted, was not exactly a teetotaler and was known as quite the partier way back during his cadet days at the Academy (class of 1905). According to Walter R. Borneman’s book ‘The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King — The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea’ (2013, Back Bay Books, ISBN-10: 0316097837) Nimitz had “a reputation for smuggling in beer and making punch for illicit parties in the attic of Bancroft Hall” during his academy days. Borneman also noted in his book that “Leahy [Nimitz’s predecessor at the Bureau and involved in Seabury’s first court martial] and Nimitz liked their afternoon happy hours and were quite capable of having a good time ashore” in their later years.

Oddly enough, on August 12th, 1937 Congressman John J Dempsey of New Mexico wrote to the Assistant secretary of the Navy, Charles Edison, on Seabury’s behalf. I say oddly as the congressman that tried to intervene on Seabury’s behalf was from New Mexico, and his records indicate Seabury did not move there until the following year:

Chester W. Nimitz, January 1st, 1940 while serving as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. Photo by Dmitri Kessel from the LIFE Images Collection, courtesy of Getty Images.

Congressman Dempsey letter

My dear Mr. Edison:

My attention has been called to the case of Lieut.-Commander Seabury Cook of the U.S.S. Tuscaloosa, who was recently court-martialed because he took a drink on duty, and the papers were sent to the Washington office.

I am informed Lieut.-Commander Cook has had twenty years of faithful service, and has a wife and three children. He is due for retirement the first of April of next year.

I am anxious indeed to be of what assistance I can to Commander Cook, and will certainly appreciate a report from your office as to what might be done in his behalf.

Most sincerely,

John J. Dempsey

As Edison was traveling, his aide, H.G. O’Neill forwarded the letter to the Bureau of Navigation to reply, which Chester Nimitz did on August 16th, 1937, although he stated he had not yet received the records to review the case himself.

Just the same, Seabury’s rank was not reduced nor was he immediately kicked out. With the loss of that many numbers, however, Seabury’s naval career was now effectively over. It denied him the ability to be promoted to full Commander and he was likely pushed out under the Navy’s “up or out” policy in place at this time, where if you did not advance on schedule you were automatically placed on the retired list. On August 20th, 1937 Seabury was ordered to report to the first Naval District in Boston, Massachusetts, where he reported on September 27th as Assistant to the District Personnel Officer; a dreaded desk job.

To add insult to injury, Elizabeth and the girls had to make their own way back east as no government transportation was available. They departed Long Beach, CA on September 1st, and arrived in Boston on September 27th. Seabury submitted a request for compensation, which the navy at least apparently agreed to.

According to his daughter Sydney, Elizabeth and the girls moved back in with her family in Summit, NJ.

Seabury’s Aunt Anne, last of his father’s generation died in October of 1937 at the age of 80. Her maid Bridget Rock went to work for the elderly Payson family who also lived on College Avenue. When they passed she moved to 8 Bishop Place where she is believed to have passed away in the 1950’s.

Despite all the setbacks, Seabury had one final opportunity to command a vessel before he left the Navy. On February 18th, 1938 he was given temporary command of the USS Eagle (#19) in Boston for a couple weeks, as relief for Lieutenant Joseph P. Canty (USNA ’24), until his permanent replacement, Lt. (j.g.) K.C. Walpole arrived March 4th, 1938. The Eagle would often be docked next to the Massachusetts Nautical Schoolship Nantucket and the USS Constitution, as the photo from 1935 below illustrates. Seabury was there seven years after Bernard had graduated.

Another wonderful photo if the USS Nantucket showing the different eras. Here at home in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, MA circa 1935 with her yardmates USS Constitution and WWI-era Patrol Craft USS Eagle (PE-19). Nantucket's hull is still painted black and her mainmast has the yards added during the winter of 1930-31, so the date appears accurate. Nantucket appears to be stealing the show somewhat with the huge American flags flying from her three masts. Since this was obviously taken during winter due to the enclosure built over the Nantucket's decks and the warm clothes the people are wearing, I'm going to guess that the vessels are all dressed up for Armistice Day, November 11th. Photo is from the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. All Rights Reserved.

Civilian Life

Seabury was originally scheduled to leave the Navy in the spring of 1938, but this order was later rescinded, and delayed one year. But by April 7th, 1938 he had moved to the LaPasada Apartments in Santa Fe, NM.

In January of 1939 Seabury was given the option of either an honorable discharge with two years’ pay, or to be placed on the retired list, whereby he would receive retirement pay of 2 ½ % of his active duty pay multiplied by the number of years of service. Seabury wisely chose the latter.

Seabury had 22 Years of Active Duty Service (26 Years including Academy), of which 14 Years, 9 Months were Sea Service.

On April 28th, 1939, Seabury moved back east and informed the Bureau of Navigation that his address had changed to 11 Fenno Road, Newton Centre, MA, close to where Elizabeth and the kids were living.

On May 5th, 1939 he was officially transferred to the retired list from June 30th, 1939,

having failed twice of selection as best fitted for promotion to grade of Commander. Section 12(k) act 23 Jun 1938, 52 Stat. 949; U.S. Code, Title 34, Sect. 404 (k).

By this point Seabury was attempting to move on and provide a living for his family by starting the Cook Sales Corporation. He appears to have bought exclusive rights to market and sell a small countertop frozen treat maker made by the Servel Company. Servel was probably best known for their gas powered refrigerators which did not need electricity. His new business had a home office at 419 Boylston Street, Boston, MA and a sales office at 1775 Broadway, New York, NY. They advertised in trade publications, such as ‘Milk Plant Monthly’ and ‘American Druggist’ for salesmen, promising easy sales and large profits.

Cook Sales Corporation advertisement in the June 24th, 1939 edition of 'The Billboard' trade magazine, Amusement Machines section.

The next two years are a bit of a black hole in his records, although it is assumed he was working his business which appeared to fail by 1941. Of course during this time the German’s invaded Poland in September of 1939, kicking off World War II in Europe. In his daughter’s book, Sydney simply states “dad did his own thing out West somewhere”, suggesting he and Elizabeth had separated once again.

Indeed, on February 17th, 1941, Seabury informed the Bureau of Navigation that his address had changed to the Bay View Lodge, 1401 Ynez Place, Coronado, CA. He appears to have socialized with naval officers and may have worked for a civilian contractor in some capacity, although it’s unclear from his records exactly what.

The mother of a naval officer friend of Seabury, wrote to the President of the United States on Seabury’s behalf trying to get him reinstated. Note that this was nearly 6 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

Hoffman Plea

June 9, 1941

Honorable Franklin D. Roosevelt, President,

White House,

Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Roosevelt:

As you know, I campaigned for you as one of Mrs. O.P. Hanna’s (God bless her) assistants. The first vote I ever cast was for you. I have never had any favors to ask, but a case has come to my attention which is important, and in which I would like prompt action to be taken, as I believe that such action would be beneficial to our Navy, as well as a boon to the individual concerned.

Lieut. Com. Seabury Cook (U. S. N. A. March, ’17) was passed over and retired in 1939. He is a born naval officer, intelligent and capable. I understand he was passed over because he drank too much. During the six months I have known him, I have seen him almost daily and have never observed any sign of intoxication. He appears to be in excellent physical condition, as he swims in the surf and takes a long hike on the beach daily to keep fit. He is descended from two of our oldest families, and his father, Robert A. Cook, was a warm friend of Warren Delano [FDR’s grandfather], with whom he was once associated in business [hopefully it was not in Warren’s Chinese opium trade].

I met Com. Cook in Coronado where I spent about six months to be near my youngest son, Lieut. (j.g.) George Dewey Hoffman (U. S. N. A., ’34). My oldest boy, Com. Harry Draper Hoffman, is also on active duty in Dahlgren, Md. My father and my husband were both naval officers, so, with all my experience with service people, I believe I know a good officer when I see one.

My request is that Com. Cook, (who is like another son to me) be placed on active duty immediately, and I am convinced that such a move would be a wise one for all concerned. I write this without Com. Cook’s knowledge, but I know that his strongest desire is to be back where he belongs, and where his training and experience would be of greatest benefit to the nation.

Sincerely and always,

Yours very truly,

Helen Draper Hoffman

205 Nieto Avenue

Long Beach, California

Helen Louise Draper Hoffman (1873-1949) appears to have been well connected. As she mentioned, both her husband and father were Navy men. Her former husband, Lieutenant Leonard George Hoffman was Secretary to Admiral of the Navy George Dewey, hero of the Spanish-American war and the Battle of Manila Bay. Dewey’s funeral occurred at the Naval Academy shortly before Seabury graduated in 1917. As a cadet, Seabury likely witnessed the event, if not took part in it. Her father was Lemuel James Draper (1834-1879), Assistant Surgeon of the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. On her maternal side, her roots went back to John Washington of Virginia, a cousin of George.

The name Helen dropped at the beginning of her request was Mrs. O.P. Hanna, otherwise known as the wife of a prominent democrat named Oliver P Hanna who represented Wyoming. Her maiden name was Dora Myers and in addition to her strong support of the Democratic Party, was a figure in the women’s suffrage movement.

Despite Mrs. Hoffman’s impassioned plea, her request was rejected.

Seabury tried several times as well.

On September 19th, 1941 Seabury wrote to the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, Chester W. Nimitz, requesting a return to active duty. Nimitz declined his request on September 26th stating that the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery found him not physically qualified for active duty. At the time Seabury’s address was St. Margaret’s, Annapolis, Maryland, R.D. 2, care of H.H. Little.

Seabury quickly wrote back, but did not date his letter (it was received October 1st) asking Nimitz to reconsider based on the fact that Seabury was examined on September 6th and was found;

to be physically qualified for all duties of my rank”. Seabury went on to say “and it was not until a re-examination and a reference to my previous medical history that I was found to be incapacitated for any active duty. I feel confident that my physical condition is such that I can perform active duty in a satisfactory manner, and I submit the fact that I was found on first examination to be qualified for active duty indicates that my present physical condition is not such as to prevent my efficient performance of active duty.

Unfortunately, it was not spelled out in any of the letters whether his rejection was based on his alcoholism or his congenital heart condition his naval records revealed (which the alcohol no doubt aggravated).

Obviously one of the two, his heart or his drinking in his medical history trumped the fact that he had recently passed a physical in his present condition. Nimitz shot Seabury down a second time on October 7th, 1941.

While Seabury was waiting for Nimitz’ reply, his Senator, the honorable W. Warren Barbour of New Jersey wrote to the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, on October 6th:

Senator Barbour Letter

United States Senate

Washington, D.C.

October 6, 1941

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am very much interested in Seabury Cook, Lt. Commander, United States navy (Ret.), who has asked to be returned to duty and was turned down because of physical disability.

The peculiar part of the Navy’s refusal to reinstate him is what intrigues me as he was accepted for duty on Sept. 6, 1941 and was pronounced physically fit and one week later, September 13th, on reexamination was declared physically unfit. In view of the above, and the fine record he had in the Navy and his desire to return to active duty I am wondering if it would not be possible to give him a third examination to see if he may not be physically capable of rejoining the Navy’s forces.

With appreciation for your utmost courtesy, and with kind personal regards, believe me

Most sincerely,

W. Warren Barbour

Knox didn’t bother to address the issue beyond kicking it down to Nimitz, who sent the following reply on October 9th:

Nimitz Reply

My dear Senator Barbour:

Your letter of October 6, 1941 addressed to the Secretary of the Navy regarding Lieutenant Commander Seabury Cook, U.S.N., Retired, has been referred to this Bureau for reply.

The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery after review of Lieutenant Commander Cook’s medical record on file and present physical findings has recommended that he be considered not physically qualified for recall to active duty. In view of this, the Bureau of Navigation does not desire to order him to active duty.

In view of your interest in Lieutenant Commander Cook, it is regretted that a more favorable reply cannot be made.

Sincerely yours,

C.W. Nimitz

Rear Admiral, U.S.N.

Chief of Bureau

Of course less than two months later, on December 7th, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and soon thereafter Chester W Nimitz was promoted to Admiral and assigned by President Roosevelt as the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet where Nimitz led a brilliant campaign to defeat the Japanese Empire.

I find it interesting that Seabury tried so hard to get back into the navy so many months prior to Pearl Harbor and our entry into the war.

Seabury even attempted to get a job in ordnance with the British Admiralty:

British Admiralty Inquiry

Office of the British Admiralty

Supply Representative

P.O. Box 165, Benjamin Franklin Station

Washington, D.C.

November 28th, 1941

Lieut. Commander Seabury Cook, U.S.N. (Ret)


The above officer has applied for a position on the staff of the British Admiralty Supply Representative in Washington. I am considering offering him a post as assistant to the officer who is dealing with Naval guns and torpedoes.

Lieut. Commander Seabury Cook seems to have technical knowledge which will be most useful under the present circumstances, and he also has the advantage of knowing a good many of the officers in the Bureau of Ordnance with whom my staff have day to day contact.

He tells me that he was summoned to the Bureau of Ordnance some months ago with a view to be called up for employment, but that, unfortunately, he was rejected on medical grounds.

I shall be much obliged if you could confirm that there is no objection to the employment of this officer by one of the British Missions in Washington, and at the same time, I shall be grateful if you could give me, strictly confidentially, any relevant extracts from his record which might assist me in coming to a decision.

You will appreciate how difficult it is to obtain the services of suitable personnel at the present time, and I am anxious to give this post to Lieut. Commander Seabury Cook if there are no over-ruling objections.

May I ask you to treat the material as urgent.

Yours faithfully,

J.W. Dorling (James Wilfred Sussex Dorling) Rear Admiral

Upon our entry into the Second World War in late 1941 Seabury initially resigned himself to his fate of not returning to active duty, but ever the patriot and wanting to contribute, became a communications analyst for the War Production Board in Washington, D.C.

Obviously all hell had broken loose since the war started and Nimitz’s promotion, so it was not until January 3rd, 1942 that Bureau’s Assistant Chief, Louis E. Denfeld responded to Admiral Dorling, basically stating he had no objection, but questioning the legality and suggested Dorling check with the navy’s Judge Advocate General.

In April of 1942 Seabury’s son Robert dropped out of Bard College his junior year to train to be a naval aviator. According to the Summit Herald;

Early in May, he began preliminary training at the U.S. Naval Reserve Aviation Base in Anacostia, D.C.

Master Mariner

According to Seabury’s obituary; “tiring of his desk job, he took a test for a Master’s certificate in the Merchant Marine, and was approved in 1942.” His mariner records indicated his Masters, Oceans, Unlimited license was issued in Baltimore, MD on July 15th, 1942.

His daughter’s book concurs with this information. Sydney wrote;

When war was declared [ES: actually quite a bit before], Dad did everything he could to get back into the Navy, but to no avail. So he took tests for a master’s certificate in the Merchant Marine and held down a job with the War Production Board in Washington until he received his certification and was assigned to a ship as second mate. The Merchant Marine, though certainly a comedown from the U.S. Navy, would be preferable to a “desk job,” which he had always scorned as far beneath his dignity.

After more than a decade of research on this topic, and knowing now what I do about the character, heroism and skill of the men who served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, and how the Navy's leadership failed so badly to protect them early in the war, I can’t agree with the ‘comedown’ comment, but it would have been perceived as such at the time, and unfortunately and unfairly this stereotype largely persists to this day.

His merchant mariner records show he was 5’-9” tall, had blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion.

Seabury Cook from his Merchant Marine license in 1942

Starboard side view of the SS Alaskan July 18th, 1942, just before leaving on her last voyage. She appears heavily loaded and includes large tarped bundles of cargo (perhaps the plane parts and Ford trucks) on top of all her hatch covers. Note armament and Armed Guard ramp rafts added to fores and aft masts. Archive No. P0001.003/01-#PB6067 Courtesy of the Mariner's Museum

His first assignment was indeed as Second Mate of the Alaskan, being the last crew member to join the vessel on July 21st, 1942 (six days after receiving his license). He took Earl F. Manning’s (of Alaskan and Cape San Juan fame) former position after he was promoted to Chief Mate, replacing James Evans. As Second Mate, Seabury would have been the primary navigator for the voyage.

On July 25th, 1942, while staying at the Hotel McAlpin, New York, Seabury hastily penned a hand written note informing the Bureau of Personnel, Navy Department that until further notice, his address would be c/o American Hawaiian Steamship Co., 90 Broad St. New York City.

What a way to start his Merchant Marine career. As gunnery was his specialty, I suspect Seabury would have had a hard time keeping away from the Alaskan’s newly added armament (likely old WWI surplus) and interacting with her Navy Armed Guard crew.

Shortly after they departed, according to the Summit Herald, his son Robert “successfully completed the [preliminary flight training] course in August; before reporting to the “Annapolis of the Air” [Pensacola, FL] for basic and advanced training.

As my main Alaskan webpage details, the Alaskan was sunk in the South Atlantic by the U-172 on November 28th, 1942 as they attempted to make their way back home from the Middle East. Seabury’s amazing personal account, from the U-172’s attack, to their all-or-nothing effort to resurrect their half sunken salvation, to their grueling thirty-nine day voyage to South America are eloquently detailed in his Sea Power Magazine article ‘The Voyage of the Wing Ding’ in the French Guiana Group section on the main Alaskan page. His daughter’s book included the article as well.

Note: If you've started here on this page, I suggest you jump to the Alaskan's main page through the link above or the main menu to learn more about the vessels, the attack, and the people involved before returning here to continue Seabury's story.

Based on memos’ in Seabury’s navy personnel file, news of the Alaskan’s loss appears to spread only after the ‘Brazil Group’ reached Belem in late December. At that time the authorities learned that the Alaskan had been lost to torpedo and gunfire from a German U-boat on November 28th, and while they then knew about the survivors and casualties of the ‘Brazil Group’, the other’s fates, including Seabury’s, were still unknown and in doubt. The Brazil group’s life boat pulled away from the area when it was at capacity as the U-172 was shelling the Alaskan to finish her off. They quickly lost sight of their crewmates and may have assumed the worst.

The day after Christmas, December 26th, 1942 Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, the Chief of Naval Personnel, sent Elizabeth the dreaded Telegram:

Cover of the January, 1944 edition of the Navy League's 'SEA POWER' Magazine. Courtesy of

On December 28th, Seabury’s brother-in-law Herbert Brucker wrote to Admiral Jacobs seeking more information. As you can see from the stationary and signature, Herbert was not your average citizen:

Brucker letter



December 28, 1942

Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs

2072-5 Arlington Annex

Arlington, Virginia

My dear Admiral Jacobs:

I address this letter to you because your name was signed to a telegram notifying us that my brother-in-law, Lt. Comdr. Seabury Cook, Retired, was missing. This telegram was sent on December 26 to my sister-in-law, Mrs. Seabury Cook, 10 Fernwood Road, Summit, New Jersey.

Mrs. Cook, my wife (a sister of Lt. Comdr. Cook) and another sister are of course extremely anxious to know any details that might not reveal military information in order to learn whether there is any hope.

Therefore, I shall take the liberty of telephoning you tomorrow to find out whether we can be told something as to the circumstances of what happened. Were there any survivors for example? [ES: There were, of course, but the authorities likely did not know at this point, only that the Alaskan failed to reach port on schedule] Was it near land? [ES: Definitely not, but again the authorities had no way of knowing] And similar matters would be most helpful.

All we know now is that the ship concerned left Cairo some time ago and that it belonged to the American-Hawaiian Steamship Line. Mrs. Cook also knows the name of the ship, but has not told us.

Sincerely yours,

Herbert Brucker

Chief, Media Division

Bureau of Intelligence

The place Seabury’s brother-in-law worked, The Office of War Information, was a controversial agency formed in 1942 which was started with the goal of providing an isolated America with more accurate information about the war, but essentially became an American propaganda machine, putting a positive or negative spin on the topic as the military saw fit. No small irony that Herbert worked for the agency that helped down-play the merchant mariner losses early in the war to keep recruitment up.

I’m sure Seabury knew full well what he was getting himself into when he joined, however, and saw the US Merchant Marine as his best opportunity to get into the fight and contribute to our victory.

In the margins of Herbert’s letter it noted that he did in fact call Admiral Jacobs office, but did not make it past his gatekeeper, an Ensign Slattery, although was “given all available info”, which likely was not much at this stage. On the 7th, Jacobs formally replied by letter stating nothing more was known, but offering a couple of suggestions.

On January 4th, 1943, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox wrote directly to Elizabeth, but was not very encouraging:

Knox Letter

My Dear Mrs. Cook:

It is with deep regret that I confirm the Navy Department’s dispatch informing you that your husband, Lieutenant Commander Seabury Cook, United States Navy, Retired, is missing.

He was serving with the United States Naval Forces [ES: he was serving with the US Merchant Marine] in the North Atlantic Area [ES: the equator], and was reported missing following action with the enemy November 28th, 1942.

Public Law 490 makes certain provisions for the support of dependents and the payment of insurance premiums by allotments from the pay of persons in a status similar to that of your husband. For information or to make specific requests in terms of need, it is suggested you communicate with the Chief of Naval Personnel, Navy Department.

I desire to express to you my sincere sympathy in your great anxiety, and it is hoped that you may find comfort in the thought that he was upholding the highest traditions of the Navy [ES: and more importantly the U.S. Merchant Marine].

Sincerely yours,


Secretary of the Navy


The French Guiana Group - The nine survivors that reached Cayenne aboard Lifeboat #3. Front row, left to right: George Nelson, Messman; James Brooks, Fireman; Edwin E. Greenlaw, Master; Seabury Cook, 2nd Mate. Back row, left to right: William Suprey, Fireman; Unknown - probable Navy Armed Guard; Unknown - probable Navy Armed Guard; John Casey, Radio Operator; Harold Reagle, Oiler. Identifications based on other photos and physical characteristics. Note French Hospital Cayenne (HC) pajamas and the number of men without shoes. Due to gaunt appearance of the men, beards and visible injuries/bandages, it is assumed this photo was taken fairly soon after their arrival. It was actually included in Seabury Cook's article: 'The Voyage of the Wing Ding', with the caption: "The exhausted crew of the 'Wing Ding,' photographed after a good meal and a few hours of rest in the hospital at Cayenne, French Guiana.". I located and purchased this image from the Penobscot Marine Museum, Catalog No. LB2008.3.148

As noted on my main Alaskan page, Seabury’s group reached French Guiana on January 5th. Based on various communiques in his records, it then took some time for the Navy to determine 2nd Mate Seabury Cook was in fact Lt. Commander Seabury Cook, USN Retired.

On January 15th, 1943 Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, the Chief of Naval Personnel, sent Elizabeth an updated Telegram with the wonderful news:

I found it interesting that although Seabury had retired from the Navy and was an active Merchant Marine officer, his disposition and notifications came from the Navy and not the Coast Guard as was the case for Captain Greenlaw and all other Merchant Mariners. Quite ironic also that he was forced out of the Navy, which then threw up every road-block they could to prevent his return (Including Knox) before and after war was declared, but after the Alaskan’s loss, he appears to be the Navy’s favorite son.

Also of interest is that Greenlaw’s wife Hazel was first given notice of his missing status on January 6th, while Elizabeth was first notified on December 26th, eleven days prior. Conversely, Hazel was notified Edwin was safe just two days later on January 8th, while Elizabeth had to wait twenty days until January 15th to learn Seabury was safe. It was the same day their son Robert earned his wings at NAS Pensacola, FL.

According to The Courier-News from Bridgewater, New Jersey - January 16, 1943:

Reported Missing, Summit Officer Telephones Wife – Summit. Notified the day after Christmas that her husband, Lieut. Commdr. Seabury Cook, was reported missing in foreign waters, Mrs. Elizabeth LeHuray Cook of 10 Fernwood Rd. was overjoyed a few days ago when her husband telephoned her. He said he was safe, but had lost 20 pounds before the telephone connection was broken and that he hopes to be home in a few weeks. Their son, Robert Cook, was commissioned ensign in naval aviation Friday. Lieutenant Commander Cook is a graduate of the old Summit Academy and of the Naval Academy. In Coast Guard Service until recently, he was recalled after his retirement. [ES: again, not exactly]”

It appears they were flown back in small groups. Captain Greenlaw and Seabury were first, flying together from Cayenne to Paramaribo, then from Paramaribo to Port-of-Spain Trinidad (at which they arrived prior to January 14th) and then finally from Trinidad to New York.

As mentioned on the main Alaskan page in the French Guiana section, for the last leg they flew on American Export Airlines. They took Flight No. W-102, Plane NC-41882 (aka ‘Exeter’), a 4-engined Sikorsky VS-44 flying boat from Trinidad on January 20th, 1943 and arrived at La Guardia Field, New York on January 21st.

His daughter wrote:

A week after dad’s phone call we met him at the Taft Hotel in New York City. The authorities had flown him in from Trinidad. He – dressed in a Red Cross navy-blue turtleneck sweater – was sunburned and terribly thin but was healthy and in good spirits. He claimed that vitamin deficiency was the only ill effect he’s suffered from his ordeal. That and weight loss, but it was “the big two-hundred pounders in the crew who lost a lot of weight,” he said. “I dropped 25 pounds to 125 pounds. But the big fellows felt it most.” He spoke almost immediately about his next voyage. This time he’d be skipper. He would take only two months’ leave to regain his strength.

Sydney continued:

In a February letter to Captain Greenlaw, Dad wrote, “Stopped in Washington and was told I could get back in the Navy if I requested it. But that would mean some kind of a desk job, I’m afraid, so they can go to hell unless they order me back.

He obviously still had his fighting spirit!

Seabury’s time off was not just recuperating, and he went around giving talks about his group’s ordeal, not for self-promotion, but to help educate and inspire those entering the service. This impressed me greatly as he had every right to take a break but he still found a way to contribute to the war effort.

On March 8th, 1943, Ralph C. Parker, the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Training School at Princeton University, wrote a letter to the Chief of Naval Personnel complimenting Seabury on a recent talk he gave to the students:

"1. It is desired to inform the Bureau of the service rendered to this school by subject officer, who, at the invitation of the Commanding Officer, who happened to encounter him, gave a talk to the student-officers about his recent experiences.

2. Lt. Cmdr. Cook, as is probably known to the Bureau, being still on inactive duty, qualified for his Master’s papers in the merchant marine, and shipped as second officer aboard a cargo vessel which sailed from New York last November. The ship was torpedoed in mid-Atlantic and a number of her personnel, including the Master and Lt. Cmdr. Cook, were finally listed as missing and presumably lost by the Navy Department on December 26. Actually, after being first on a life raft, they found a water-filled life boat, repaired and bailed it out, made a jury rig from two oars and some pieces of canvas, and without compass or instruments of any kind, sailed her 2000 miles to the coast of South America.

3. Lt. Cmdr. Cook’s simple but graphic account of this exploit, his modesty, his general attitude, and his fine bearing, together with the fact that he was preparing to ship again as soon as possible, all had a most inspiring effect on the student body, besides giving valuable lessons in seamanship and navigation. Since he is not on active duty where his activities would be a matter of record, it is believed pertinent to call attention to the service rendered, for attachment to his record if the Bureau so approves"

They apparently did approve as it ended up in the naval records I purchased.

Back to Work

After he returned to the States in January of 1943 he only took seven weeks off, and then joined the Isthmian Liberty ship Thomas Cresap in Baltimore as Chief Mate on March 15th 1943 under Master Gust E. Jonsson. From Seabury’s gaunt appearance on the group photo of the survivors in French Guiana, seven weeks would not nearly have been enough time to properly recover, but his dedication to the war effort overruled.

Thomas Cresap at unknown date and location during WWII. Owned by U.S.Department of Commerce and operated by Isthmian Steamship Co. under WSA Service Agreement Form GAA / General Agent Agreement. Courtesy:National Archives via

His first voyage on the Thomas Cresap, on which he served as Chief Mate initially, not Master as his daughter’s book specified, departed Hampton Roads in convoy on April 28th:

Hampton Roads, Apr 28, 1943 UGS.8 (Hampton Rds - Algiers) Casablanca, May 16, 1943

Naples unknown date NV.43 (Naples - Augusta) Augusta, Jun 6, 1943

Casablanca, Jun 9, 1943 GUS.8 (Passed Gibraltar - Hampton Rds) Hampton Roads, Jun 27, 1943

They returned to Norfolk on July 1st.

Around this time his son Robert was assigned to his first operational squadron, the composite VC-69 in Seattle, WA.

Seabury’s records show another voyage on the Thomas Cresap, a coastwise trip from Norfolk on July 2nd, returning July 15th. His records seem to indicate that at this time he became Master of the vessel.

His former Master, the Old Salt, Gust E Jonsson (wonderful name for a sailor), had been born in Sweden in 1883 and immigrated to America around the turn of the century. He became a citizen in 1918 and served in World War One as a Lt. Commander in the US Navy Reserve Force as Master of the freighter SS Howick Hall. Jonsson had about 44 years of experience at sea by the time Seabury served with him. Jonsson had started out on Barks and Clippers like the Dashing Wave, but had been with Isthmian on modern steel freighters since the early 20’s. Throughout his Isthmian career he commanded Steel Scientist, Chickasaw City, Chattanooga City, Mobile City, Bessemer City, Steel Exporter, Anniston City, and Atlanta City. He had transferred from the Cresap to Isthmian’s newly acquired Sea Flasher (C3-S-A2) which he commanded throughout the remainder of WWII, then moved on to Marine Arrow and Steel Artisan in the late 1940’s when he records abruptly stop. I could not find a record of his death, so hopefully he was able to enjoy some retirement, although he never appeared to marry and his life was definitely the sea.

Seabury’s references to Captain Greenlaw in his story make him sound much older than he was. Greenlaw was actually 6 years younger than Seabury and had about 4 years less experience at sea (though still an experienced Master Mariner in his own right). Knowing now what I do about their careers, I can’t help but wonder if Gust E Jonsson made it into Seabury’s ‘Wing-Ding’ story subconsciously, or perhaps as an intentional, but secret homage.

The Thomas Cresap departed Hampton Roads once again on July 27th, with Master Seabury Cook in command and did not return until December 5th in the following convoy series:

Gust E. Jonsson circa 1918 from his US Applications for Seaman's Protection Certificates, 1916-1940 courtesy of

Hampton Roads, Jul 27, 1943 UGS.13 (Hampton Rds - Port Said) Algiers, Aug 16, 1943

Algiers, Oct 10, 1943 KMS.28 (Gibraltar - Port Said) Malta, Oct 13, 1943

Malta, Oct 14, 1943 VN.4 (Malta - Naples) Naples, Oct 16, 1943

Naples, Nov 8, 1943 NV.7A (Naples - Augusta) Augusta, Nov 9, 1943

Augusta, Nov 12, 1943 GUS.21 (Port Said - Hampton Rds) Hampton Roads, Dec 5, 1943

While on this long voyage, his son Robert’s squadron moved to Shelton, WA at the beginning of September where Robert learned how to make torpedo runs off Whidbey Island and all the elements qualified for carrier landings on the escort carrier USS Casablanca (CVE-55). In October they moved to Holtville, CA where they practiced night operations. November found his squadron in Los Alamitos where they practiced mock attacks on a landing party. On December 19th they flew to San Diego, where they were temporarily assigned to the escort carrier USS Wake Island (CVE-65). The Wake Island departed San Diego on January 12th for an operational training cruise destined for Norfolk, VA via the Panama Canal.

The Last Straw

Tragically, his son Robert would not live to reach Norfolk. Just one week after departing San Diego, Seabury’s 22-year-old son Ensign Robert Seabury Cook was killed when his Grumman TBM-1C Avenger Torpedo Bomber (BuNo 25468) crashed on take-off on January 19th, 1944. This was during air operations off Costa Rica.

Note: the "M" in the model name designated that his aircraft was made by General Motors. Original Grumman produced aircraft carried the "TBF" moniker.

Seabury’s daughter’s book incorrectly notes they were attached to the USS Bogue, which was the squadron’s permanent assignment several months later in May after returning from this voyage. In fact, Margaret and perhaps the family did not know the exact circumstances of Robert’s death and the book leaves the impression his plane crashed on take-off from the carrier.

There is a great picture in the book of Robert posing for a group shot with his squadron in front of one of their torpedo bombers. He appears to have just cracked a joke as several are laughing and looking at him. So young, but looking like a leader.

The book notes it was taken on the flight deck of the USS Bogue, but it must have been taken on either the USS Wake Island or the USS Casablanca. Coincidentally, another USS Bogue squadron, VC-19, sank the Alaskan’s nemesis, the U-172 the month before, on December 13th, 1943.

Robert Seabury Cook. Flight School Graduation photo that appeared in Summit Herald article about his loss.

The circumstances of Robert’s loss and the events leading up to it were noted in the squadron's official history:

"On 17 January, two pilots, one torpedo and one fighter, were lost in high winds and eventually proceed to the nearest land. Ensign Winslow Wright, flying a fighter plane [FM-1 Wildcat, BuNo 15662] landed in the water off the coast of Costa Rica and Ensign R.S. Cook landed at the airport at San Jose, Costa Rica. Meanwhile, Ensign Wright joined Ensign Cook at the airport. Two days later with Ensign Cook at the controls and Ensign Wright, L.H. Remund, RM3c, H.H. Hinson, AOM3c, and D.D. Stockmeyer, AMM2c, as passengers the torpedo plane started to take off to return to the ship. But something happened on takeoff and the plane crashed. Ensign Cook was fatally injured, Ensign Wright was so seriously injured he still is hospitalized [as of May 31st, 1945] and the three men were so seriously injured that they were hospitalized and lost to the squadron."

It is unclear how they were able to pack the five men into the aircraft. The Avenger typically had accommodations for three men, pilot in the forward cockpit, gunner in the rear ball turret and radioman/gunner in the lower ventral position. Sometimes a fourth seat was added between the pilot and gunner if the radio equipment was removed. Perhaps an explanation for the accident. There is an interesting article here about the crew accommodations in the Avenger.

Had they managed to get airborne, I shudder to think what it would have been like for his passengers when they attempted something so dangerous as a carrier landing at sea.

A telegram was sent by the Navy to Seabury and Elizabeth’s address at 10 Fernwood in Summit, NJ on January 20th (although it is believed that they remained separated since about 1941) Their son was buried on January 23rd at the Corozal American Cemetery outside Panama City, Panama, a year almost to the day (21st) that Seabury arrived back in New York after his SS Alaskan experience. Neither Seabury nor Elizabeth were able to travel to attend his funeral in Panama, and Seabury likely did not find out for several weeks for the Thomas Cresap had departed Hampton Roads again on January 14th, 5 days before his son’s loss, as part of Convoy UGS-30 and arrived in Oran, Algeria on February 1st.

The Cresap traveled to several ports in the Mediterranean and would not return to Hampton Roads until April 14th:

Hampton Roads, Jan 14, 1944 UGS.30 (Hampton Rds - Port Said) Oran, Feb 1, 1944

Oran, Feb 18, 1944 KMS.41 (Gibraltar - Port Said) Augusta, Feb 23, 1944

Augusta, Feb 24, 1944 VN.23 (Augusta - Naples) Naples, Feb 25, 1944

Naples, Mar 18, 1944 NV.27 (Naples - Augusta) Augusta, Mar 19, 1944

Augusta, Mar 20, 1944 GUS.34 (Port Said - Hampton Rds) Hampton Roads, Apr 14, 1944

It was also in January that Seabury’s article on their group’s survival appeared in Sea Power magazine.

The convoy would have been under strict radio silence on their way across the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and Seabury likely did not find out about his son’s loss until they reached North Africa in February.

According to Sydney’s book, Seabury wrote a V-mail letter to Elizabeth on February 10th, poignantly describing his grief:

…Sometimes I feel physically sick as tho’ I’d got a sock in the belly. And I puff when I climb ladders [ES: also a possible effect of his congenital heart condition]. Am just getting so that I can think of our fine big sun (I spelt it “sun,”and “sun” he was and always will be) without fogging up my specs every time. I was just thinking the other day what swell times we would have together when the war is over. But, honey, we must bear up. You know he wouldn’t have wanted it otherwise. He was so wonderfully loyal to me that I couldn’t let him down by allowing his passing to undermine my morale [ES: perhaps a veiled reference to his previous problems and current sobriety]. Don’t let anything happen to you, honey mine. You have unusual fortitude, which you must and will, I know, let you carry through. I need you as never before. And I want to go home! Luckily I am right busy these days, and my shipmates are fine. Met a man last week who has lost his wife, mother and two sons since he came overseas. I’ll try to write you every day. Losing Bob was and is one of fate’s most dreaded and fearful blows. But it would be a slap on the wrist compared to anything happening to you. I love love love you, Seabury

The Cresap is believed to have brought supplies to the Anzio beachhead during this time as part of Operation Shingle, which was turning into a bit of a disaster. The Axis forces put up a fierce defense causing the landing force to grind to a halt, while the Liberty ships bringing more supplies in were under nearly constant attack from German shore batteries, mines, U-boats, midget subs and air attacks including a frightful new weapon, an air-launched anti-ship radio controlled guided missile called the HS-293. At least six allied vessels (transports and warships) were sunk or damaged between January 23rd and February 16th.

According to Sydney’s book,

dad told the story of being on deck as the bombs whizzed overhead when a sailor asked for a light. Dad obliged and lit his cigarette. The next day the sailor said, “Thank you, Sir. Last light when your steady hand held the match for me, it gave me courage.” Dad’s comment to us was, “He should have felt my knees.”

It is not known if he was given leave to grieve with his family upon his return. There was a two week span between his return and his next departure, but there would have been a lot to do to get ready.

The Thomas Cresap departed Hampton Roads once again on May 3rd, returning June 29th in the following convoy series:

Hampton Roads, May 3, 1944 UGS.41 (Hampton Rds - Port Said) Augusta, May 26, 1944

Augusta, May 27, 1944 VN.42 (Augusta - Naples) Naples, May 28, 1944

Naples, Jun 5, 1944 NV.43 (Naples - Augusta) Augusta, date unknown

Augusta, Jun 28, 1944 GUS.42 (Port Said - Hampton Rds) Hampton Roads, Jun 29, 1944

At the very least, Seabury is believed to be back in command of the Thomas Cresap when they departed Hampton Roads July 14th, returning September 28th in the following convoy series:

Hampton Roads, Jul 14, 1944 UGS.48 (Hampton Rds - Port Said) Bizerta, Aug 2, 1944

Bizerta, Aug 14, 1944 UGS.49 (Hampton Rds - Port Said) Augusta, Aug 15, 1944

Augusta, Aug 15, 1944 AH.61 (Augusta - Bari) Taranto, Aug 16, 1944

Taranto, Sep 6, 1944 HA.64A (Bari - Augusta) Augusta, Sep 7, 1944

Augusta, Sep 7, 1944 GUS.51 (Port Said - Hampton Rds) Hampton Roads, Sep 28, 1944

On October 10th, 1944 Cook lost his command of the Thomas Cresap when, according to his Merchant Mariner records, he was suspended for one month and given six months’ probation for ‘smoking in violation of security regulations.’ Everyone smoked backed then, and even though it was feared the red light from a cigarette could be spotted by a U-Boat and the ships often carried dangerous cargo, personnel often smoked under tarps to conceal the light. Also somewhat ironic he would be busted for this after his Anzio story.

The Thomas Cresap sailed without him on October 12th, commanded by Frederick Schloss (who joined on the 7th), and did not return until December 10th, after Seabury’s death. The vessel survived the war and after several changes in ownership, was eventually scrapped in 1968.

Lieutenant Commander USN (retired) Seabury Cook died on the 3rd Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, December 7th, 1944 after a ‘brief illness’ at the Downtown Hospital in Summit, NJ. He was just 49.

The fact that he died on December 7th seemed to be a quite unbelievable coincidence to me. As initially back in 2012 when I first told his story his death was only described as happening after a “brief illness’ I feared he had taken his own life. In hindsight, I think that was one of the factors that kept his story in the back of mind and kept me trying to find out more.

No doubt the December 7th anniversary would have been a time of reflection for Seabury. The date would have represented what could have been for his military career. Had he not been forced out he may very well have commanded a US Destroyer or even a senior officer on one of the ill-fated battleships on that day of infamy. All that training and preparation for decades and then to miss out on the U.S. Navy’s seminal moment of the 20th century. Then there was the destruction of his marriage, to as best as I can tell, the love of his life. Both events connected and self-inflicted. Of course the loss of his son must have weighed heavily on him. His physical condition had taken a major hit during the lifeboat ordeal and he did not allow himself enough time to recuperate, nor did his work help facilitate his recovery. In addition to the physical impact of that there was no doubt a psychological aspect as well. Finally, his most recent infraction that cost him his command of the Cresap. It would have been a lot to take for anybody.

I hoped his daughter’s book would answer the question once and for all, but she too noted his weakened condition and that he died of pneumonia.

I managed to track down one of Seabury’s granddaughter’s in September of 2017, but unfortunately she was not able to provide any additional information. Perhaps another family member will find this story one day and be able to offer more clarity.

Lubbers Don't Live! wartime ad campaign series, this one warning of the dangers of smoking at sea. Illustration caption reads: Oh pause in memory of "Mac" White. In darkened ship his fag was bright. A passing sub - most impolite. Soon saw the light (Now so has White!) US Navy, Bureau of Personnel Training courtesy of

His Naval Records clearly indicate he died from congenital heart, pulmonary edema and congestion. Pneumonia of left upper lobe at the Downtown Hospital, New York, NY. An autopsy was performed.

The US Merchant Marine website lists Seabury Cook among its lists of casualties for World War II noting; “Medical cause [previously 39 days lifeboat SS Alaskan].

In his daughter Sydney’s book she states that “Dad died at the Seaman’s Hospital in New York City in December 1944”. I believe this would have been the facility on Staten Island which is now the Bayley Seton campus of Richmond University Medical Center.

Sydney went on to describe her experience:

I was at school [Barnard College] when I got the call from Sis on that damp December night. ‘You’d better come. It’s serious,’ she said. My heart throbbed in dread on the cab ride down to the docks and the Seaman’s Hospital. When I arrived at his bedside, Dad took my hand, smiled and said, ‘Hello, Peg Leg.’ He died not long after.

He had just returned from another voyage. The death certificate cited the cause of death as pneumonia. Certainly he had been weakened by his lifeboat ordeal. It was December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. In Dad’s eyes, particularly, December 7 was significant. The day our ships were sunk by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor would mark his death too.

Was Dad making a statement by dying on that day? How conscious had he been that the tide had turned in the war? He certainly must have followed the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June of 1944. He also would have been aware of the success of the Normandy Invasion. I like to think he saw the handwriting on the wall when he died – and knew that victory was in sight. I know he was thankful that he’d been able to play a part.

Play a part would be an understatement.

Seabury was laid to rest in his wife’s LeHuray family plot in the Fair Mount Cemetery in Chatham, NJ, just outside Summit.

I found it fitting that not only was his wife Elizabeth buried next to Seabury upon her death in 1989, but that the cemetery they shared was just a few short miles south of where Seabury’s patriot ancestors were buried in East Hanover.


Just as they’d done after Bobby’s tragic loss, the girl’s carried through on their own. All did what they could to support the war effort. Elizabeth worked for a time at a pump factory in Newark that had been converted to make munitions. Oldest daughter Elise graduated from Rutgers in 1945, joined the Red Cross and served in post-war Japan for a year. Sydney was still going to Barnard College but on her summer breaks worked as a receptionist /office girl at Bell Laboratories in 1943 and as a nurse’s aide in 1944. She graduated Barnard in 1946.

Elizabeth, forty-seven at the time of Seabury’s death, stayed with her sister Winifred in the old family home in Summit for many years and never re-married. In 1973 when the home was sold she rented an apartment down the street. Sydney described her as "the consummate grandmother".

Eldest daughter Elise married Thomas P. Prout Jr. in 1947 and had two children, a boy and a girl. Her husband had served as a P-38 pilot and engineering officer in the Army Air Corps in WWII in North Africa and Italy. According to his obituary, after the war in 1945 he took over the operation of Fair Oaks Hospital in Summit, New Jersey, which was started by his father in 1902.

Daughter Sydney married Peter J.C. Adam in 1948 and had three children, two boys and girl. Her husband served with the 5th Marine Division and was wounded in action on Iwo Jima. Their interesting lives were detailed in Sydney’s book.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth would face one more tragedy, the loss of her daughter Elise to cancer in 1986. Elizabeth passed away in 1989 at the impressive age of ninety-one and as noted was buried next to her husband in Chatham, NJ. Sydney passed in 2001 after a second bout of cancer.

Sydney’s personality shines through in the book like her father’s did in his account of their survival. Her zest for adventure, sense of humor, musicality, courage and general can-do attitude reminded me very much of her father. I think even more than Bobby, Sydney seemed to me the most like her father, while Elise definitely seemed most like the LeHurays’. I wish I had the opportunity to meet her before she passed. There’s a wonderful picture of her in the book dressed as a Coca-Cola girl arriving at “Le bal American’ in Tunisia with her husband on July 4th, 1951. She must have been a character.

In 1993, many years prior to her passing, Sydney and her daughter, made the long journey to visit her brother Bob’s grave in Panama. Sydney wrote:

Through the years, I’d felt that at least one member of our family should make the journey to Corozal and visit Bob’s grave. The pain of reliving their sorrow was too much for either Mother or Sis to bear. This was left for me to do.

The Corozal Cemetery, located on high, rolling land, is very beautiful. Unlike so many national cemeteries, with row upon row of white headstones and nothing to break the sad uniformity, Corozal is dotted with palm trees and tropical shrubbery and overlooks sweeping green hills. It has a variety of gravestones marking graves of military personnel, many of them dating far back into American history. It is a lovely resting-place and its history is unique.

The Corozal National Cemetery was established by the Panama Canal Company in early 1904 when the Canal was constructed. It covers about fifty-eight acres. One of the nearly five-thousand graves dates to 1790. (It is one of those that was reinterred after the original American cemetery, Ancon, was closed in 1915.) Some of the early remains are believed to be from Colonel Ulysses S. Grant’s infantry regiment that crossed the Isthmus in 1850. There are seven known burials of military personnel who served with the Navy during the Civil War and one veteran who served with the Confederacy. The cemetery also contains war dead from the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Margot and I had the feeling that Bob Cook has been in interesting company all these years.

One morning we visited the grave. We’d bought a bouquet of yellow and white daisies, and I carried with me ‘A Prayer Book for Soldiers and Sailors’, a book of Bob’s that Mother had carefully packed away along with his white silk aviator’s scarf and other personal effects. Margot and I spent a little while sitting on the grass next to that headstone, which reads:

Robert Seabury Cook, USNR, January 19, 1944

I was sorry Bob’s birth date, January 23, 1920, wasn’t inscribed on the stone, too. (Such a short life!) Our bouquet added warmth to the scene. I read from Bob’s prayer book. We then took some photographs and left reluctantly. Panama is so far away. Will we ever go again?

I was somewhat saddened to learn that Robert was not relocated to be with his parents in Chatham, but understand the family’s desire to let him rest in peace in what is truly a special place.

Sources for biographical information on Seabury Cook.

Bryden, Sydney for her book ‘VIEW FROM THE MOUNTAIN – A TWENTIETH-CENTURY MEMOIR’ (Two Pillars Press, Golden Colorado 1999, ISBN 0-9648754-1-1) for access to the Summit Free Public Library which provided on-line copies of the Summit Herald and their newspaper article relating to Seabury and his family’s lives. - for Navy Composite Squadron VC-69's records detailing the loss of Seabury Cook's son, Robert Seabury Cook. for various newspaper articles relating to Seabury and his family’s lives.

Kindell, Don - for his website including Arnold Hague’s Ports Database for convoy information for SS Thomas Cresap.

Lew, Ken for his collection of postcards and ephemera relating to Rutgers.

National Archives for numerous pieces of documentation relating to this story.

National Register of Historic Places for information on the Ellis Cook House.

NavSource, Naval History and Heritage Command for images and data on US Navy ships via:

Penobscot Marine Museum for photos of Greenlaw and French Guiana survivors as well as biographical information on Greenlaw.

Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society for information on Seabury’s grandfather, George H. Cook.

National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO for Seabury’s naval records.

Naval History and Heritage Command for its Dictionary of American naval Fighting Ships entries on the various vessels Seabury served on.

Navy League of the United States for allowing me to reprint Seabury Cook's article from the January 1944 edition of Seapower Magazine. for information on WWI U-Boat operations off the U.S. east coast when Seabury was assigned to the USS Patterson.

U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center, 100 Forbes Drive, Martinsburg, WV 25404 for Merchant Marine career information on Seabury Cook.

U.S. Merchant Marine Organization ( for information on Seabury Cook.

U.S. Naval Academy Nimitz Library for on-line links via Internet Archive ( to various Lucky Bag yearbooks referencing Seabury.

Wikipedia free on-line encyclopedia for summaries on miscellaneous topics related to this story.