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Cooper Merian C.

Merian C. Cooper
Serial Number:
Kościuszko Squadron
Date of Death:
Scattered ashes at sea
Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, Poland's Cross of Valor

Born in Jacksonville, Florida on 24 October 1893 Son of John C. Cooper and Mary Caldwell. Youngest of three children. Educated at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and graduated in 1911 Attended the U.S. Naval Academy, but was expelled senior year for disciplinary issues. Worked for the Minneapolis Daily News as a reporter in 1916 and a few more papers afterwards. Joined the Georgia National Guard in 1916 to help chase Pancho Villa in Mexico. Later was sent to the Military Aeronautics School in Atlanta to learn to fly and graduated at the top of his class. In October 1917 Cooper was sent to France with the 201st Squadron. Later became a pilot of the 20th Aero Squadron (1st Day Bombardment Group) Served as a DH-4 bomber pilot during WWI. On 26 September 1918 his plane was shot down. He was able to perform an emergency landing and was taken to a prisoner reserve hospital by witnessing German soldiers. He remained in the Air Service after the war helping the American Food Administration in providing aid to Poland. Founder of the Kosciuszko Squadron during the Polish-Soviet War from 1919-1921 and was a Soviet prisoner of war. On 13 July 1920 his plane was shot down and he spent nine months in a Soviet POW camp. He escaped to Latvia just before the war's end. Awarded the Virtuti Militari, the highest Polish military decoration, by Polish commander-in-chief Józef Piłsudski. After the war was a major movie producer working with Pioneer Pictures, RKO Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Most famous movie was 1933 King Kong, awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1952 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. On the board of directors of Pan American Airways. Married film actress Dorothy Jordan on 27 May 1933 Cooper died of cancer on 21 April 1973 in San Diego, California. His ashes were scattered at sea with full military honors.