Which Legionnaire and active fighter pilot put the National Headquarters city on the aviation map?
Harvey "H" Weir Cook. The native Hoosier, born in 1892, attended universities in Indiana and Pennsylvania, and drove ambulances for the French army before the United States even entered World War I; when America did, he switched to the U.S. Army Air Service, the forerunner of today’s Air Force. He became a true flying ace after shooting down seven enemy aircraft, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf clusters.
After the war, Cook returned to Indianapolis. He was an active Legionnaire in the organization’s early years, serving as the first national director of aviation and on the National Aeronautics Committee as a director and vice chairman (today, there is an Aerospace Subcommittee within the National Security Commission).
Cook was a proponent and supporter of aviation in all areas, from military — in addition to his work with the Legion, he served as an Army instructor with the National Guard — to commercial. He took another active role, as a prime mover behind the city of Indianapolis both getting an airport of its own in 1931 and being included as a stopping point for an airmail route, which made the airport viable and allowed more business to develop.
After Pearl Harbor, Cook petitioned to be put back on active duty. He led a squadron in the South Pacific and was killed in March 1943 when his plane crashed into a mountain. He is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. In 1944, the Indianapolis airport renamed itself the Weir-Cook Municipal Airport, and stayed that way until 1975, when it became the Indianapolis International Airport. After the facility went through a renovation and expansion a few years ago, November 2008 saw the unveiling of the new, innovatively green-built Colonel H. Weir Cook Terminal.