Richard Colvin Cox
|Richard Colvin Cox|
Cox as a West Point Cadet c.1948-1950
July 25, 1928|
|Disappeared||January 14, 1950 (aged 21)
West Point, New York
|Status||Declared dead, 1957|
|Alma mater||United States Military Academy|
||United States Army|
|Years of service||1947–1950|
In January 1950, he was visited by a young man whose first name may have been George, three times over the course of a week. On the third occasion, Richard Cox and "George" left the grounds of the academy and were never seen again. According to an eyewitness account from another cadet, the two men seemed to have known each other somewhere other than West Point. Cox is the only West Point cadet to have disappeared without a trace.
Early life and military career
Richard Cox was born in Mansfield, Ohio. After graduating from a public high school there in 1946, he volunteered for service in the United States Army. He joined the United States Constabulary, a United States Army Gendarmerie force raised to be a police-type occupation and security force in Allied-occupied Germany.
In May 1947, he began his assignment to the Sixth Constabulary Regiment, based at Coburg in the American occupation zone in Germany. and was in the S-2 (intelligence) section of Headquarters Company. Later in 1947, Cox applied for and received his appointment to West Point, arriving at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (then located at Stewart Field near the academy proper) in January 1948.
Cox entered West Point in May 1948 and did well there. Academically, he was ranked at about 100 out of a class of 550. He joined West Point's athletic team and competed in a national NCAA competition only a month before his disappearance.
Cox was engaged to be married; he and his fiance, Betty Timmons, planned to marry after his graduation from West Point.
At 4:45 pm on Saturday, January 7, 1950, a man telephoned Cox's West Point classmate, Peter Hains. Hains was acting as Charge of Quarters in Cadet Company B-2 (part of the North Barracks) and answered incoming calls for company members. He later said the caller's "tone was rough and patronizing, almost insulting." After Hains told the man that Cox was not in his room, the man replied, "Well, look, when he comes in, tell him to come on down here to the hotel. ... Just tell him George called – he'll know who I am. We knew each other in Germany. I'm just up here for a little while, and tell him I'd like to get him a bite to eat." Hains later stated he could not be completely certain the name given was "George", as he had answered many phone calls while on duty and that one had not seemed noteworthy at the time; Cox never referred to the man by name.
At 5:30 pm, a man entered Grant Hall - an area where cadets could meet guests - and asked to see Cox. The cadet on duty telephoned Cox, to tell him he had a visitor. The cadet later described the visitor as slightly under 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and weighing around 185 pounds (84 kg). He was fair-haired, had a fair complexion and wore a belted trench-coat, but no hat. When Cox entered the Hall, he shook hands with the man; the cadet on duty later recalled he seemed glad to see him. Cox signed out in the Company B-2 Departure Book, indicating he would have dinner off-campus. However, Cox later admitted to his roommates they did not dine, but drank from a bottle of whiskey while sitting inside the man's parked car.
Cox returned to Cadet Company B-2, signed the Departure Book, took a shower, and slept off the effects of the alcohol. (His two roommates later revealed this.) As a prank, his roommates photographed him, slumped over his desk, asleep. At an indeterminate time that evening, Cox altered the military time he had written in the Departure Book, changing "1923" to "1823" to make it look as if he had attended the 6:30 p.m. cadet supper formation. In fact, he had skipped the formation. This detail was not discovered until two years later, when an agent of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command had the Departure Book examined in a laboratory. If the alteration had been discovered when it was fresh in January 1950, Cox could have been charged with violating the Cadet Honor Code and likely expelled.
The next morning, before attending the Sunday chapel service, Cox mentioned his visitor to his roommates. The man, Cox said, was a former US Army Ranger who had served in the same unit as him in Germany. Cox said the man liked to brag about killing Germans during the war and had boasted about cutting off their private parts afterward. Another story he told Cox was about having gotten a German girl pregnant, and then murdering her to prevent her from having the baby. That afternoon, Cox signed out a second time to meet the man, returning at about 4.30 pm.
The following six days were without incident. Cox mentioned his visitor once to his roommates. He remarked that he "hoped he wouldn't have to see the fellow again," giving them the impression he viewed the man with distaste.
On Saturday, January 14, Cox watched a basketball game between the Army and Rutgers University. Afterwards, he was seen talking to a man thought to be "George," although the cadet who saw the two talking gave a description that differed greatly from the description given by the cadet who had seen the stranger in Grant Hall on January 7. According to the eyewitness description from January 14, George was "dark haired and rough looking." Cox returned to his room and mentioned to a roommate he was signing out to dine with his visitor again, although he appeared "not apprehensive, just sort of disgusted." The two men left the grounds of the academy and vanished without a trace.
Cox was supposed to return by 11 p.m. When he did not return, no alarm was raised because cadets occasionally returned late. His continued absence was reported to a superior officer at 2:30 a.m., but again no action was taken as cadets had been known to stay out all night despite the punishment this would incur. On Sunday morning, his roommates reported all they knew of the matter to their superior; the New York State Police and the CID were informed. The FBI also became involved in the investigation.
Three days after Cox's disappearance, a public appeal for information was broadcast on nearby radio stations. The grounds of West Point were intensively searched by helicopter and by troops on the ground. The Lusk Reservoir was dragged, the banks of the Hudson River were searched and a nearby pond was drained. The manhunt lasted two months but produced no significant leads. A search of Army records for a soldier who had served with Cox and matched the description of "George", only led to individuals who could not have been at West Point at the time of the disappearance. Cox's service in Germany was investigated and revealed nothing out of the ordinary. The theory that he had deliberately deserted from West Point was discounted, as he had left behind in his room $87 (equivalent to $885 when adjusted for inflation) and two suits of civilian clothes.
The Jacobs investigation
Harry J. Maihafer's book Oblivion (1996) documents the investigation conducted by Marshall Jacobs of Cadet Cox, who "vanished without a trace" from West Point in January 1950.
Jacobs, a retired history teacher, began his research on the Cox disappearance in 1985. The more involved he became the more intrigued Jacobs became with Cox and the prior inconclusive investigations. It was inconceivable to Jacobs that after 35 years this mystery had not been solved.
Jacobs thoroughly investigated the case, traveling all around the country following up on new leads and revisiting old leads. He interviewed Cox's family, friends, service pals, and classmates; CIA, FBI, and CID agents; and West Point and Army officials.
He researched West Point's archives and the files from the FBI, CIA, and CID investigations of Cox's disappearance, to which he gained access under the Freedom of Information Act. Jacobs conducted a comprehensive and thorough investigation that took him over eight years to complete. Among Jacobs' findings was that authorities had been remiss when they had discounted the theory that Richard Cox had disappeared deliberately. Jacobs came to believe that the presence of 87 dollars in Cox's shared room did not rule out the strong possibility that his visitor had helped him start a new career and life.
When he was ready to reveal his findings Jacobs, admittedly not a writer, contacted Maihafer with hopes they could collaborate on a book. They did and the Jacobs investigation is revealed in the book Oblivion.
The book has a section with photos including the snapshot that Cox's roommates took of him on January 7, 1950 sleeping off the effects of the alcohol he had consumed in his visitor's parked car a very short time earlier.
Maihafer writes: "Jacobs decided he had learned all he was going to, and he accepted the fact that neither he nor anyone else would ever know the full story. It was gratifying, nevertheless, to know that Cox had lived an honorable, patriotic life in the service of his country. Richard Colvin Cox was a complex, talented individual, and Jacobs would have liked to have met him and to have had a long talk. This was not to be. All the same, the research project, which along the way had turned into an obsession, could justly be called a success. Marshall Jacobs had 'found' Dick Cox and brought him back from oblivion. The files could be closed."
- Maihafer, Harry J., (1999). Oblivion: The Mystery of West Point Cadet Richard Cox. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's. ISBN 1-57488-224-4
- Maihafer, p.42.
- "Richard Cox, United States Constabulary Coburg, Germany 1947". United States Constabulary. United States Constabulary Association. April 19, 2007.
- Brean, Herbert; Conant, Luther (14 April 1952). "The Mystery of the Missing Cadet". Life. Time Inc. (published 1952-03-14). pp. 149–161. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
- Maihafer, p.23.
- Maihafer, p.23-6.
- Maihafer, p.90-1.
- Maihafer, p.90.
- Maihafer, p.26.
- Sheehan, Jerry (3 January 1960). "Mystery Hides Man Who Went To Dinner". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
- "West Point". America's Book of Secrets. 2012-03-17. H2 Network.
- Oblivion: The Mystery of the West Point Cadet, Richard Cox, by Harry J. Maihefer.
- Harry J. Maihafer (1996). Oblivion (1st ed.). Brassey's Inc. ISBN 1574880438.
- Hiaasen, Carl (28 February 1988). "The Case of the Missing Cadet Tracking The Clues For 38 Years". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
- "What Happened to Vanished West Point Cadet?". The Milwaukee Journal. Jan 9, 1953.