Richard Colvin Cox
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (March 2009)|
Richard Colvin Cox (25 July 1928 – last seen 14 January 1950) was a second-year military cadet whose disappearance from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1950 is still unsolved. He is the only West Point cadet who ever disappeared without being found dead or alive.
Cadet Cox was born in Mansfield, Ohio and graduated from a public high school there in 1946, a year after World War II ended. The following year, Cox served in the Sixth Constabulary Regiment of the United States Army, situated at the time in Coburg, Germany. He was in the S-2 (intelligence) section of Headquarters Company within the Constabulary. Located near the recently created border between West Germany and East Germany, "the Constabulary's job," according to a military journalist and 1949 West Point graduate named Harry Maihafer, "was to man border posts and run patrols. Across the border, just beyond the barbed wire and minefields and less than a football field away, were frowning East German and Soviet troops, armed with submachine guns and constantly watching the Americans through binoculars and telescopic sights." Also serving in the S-2 section at the time (1947) was a mysterious army official who later used the name "George". 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.
A mysterious friend named George
At 4:45 pm on Saturday, 7 January 1950, a man telephoned Cox's West Point classmate Peter Hains, the Charge of Quarters in Cadet Company B-2 (part of the North Barracks) who answered incoming calls for company members. Hains said later the phone 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."
Later that evening Cox got the message, signed out in the Company B-2 Departure Book indicating he would have dinner off-campus, and met "George" in the visitors' area inside Grant Hall. The two men went to George's car, which was parked on the West Point campus, and drank from a bottle of whiskey while sitting inside the car. Cox returned to B-2, signed the Departure Book, took a shower, and slept off the effects of the alcohol. (His two roommates later revealed this.) 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. Cox remained at the military academy for a week without anyone's noticing his offense; if anyone had, Cox could have been charged with violating the Cadet Honor Code and likely expelled. "George" made a second visit to Cox on Sunday, 8 January, the day after their drinking bout. If Cox consumed alcohol on that occasion, no one noticed it and he never admitted it. (On Sunday morning before "George" arrived for the second time, Cox admitted to his roommates that he had drunk whiskey with his friend the previous day.)
According to Harry Maihafer, one of three people who investigated the case decades later, "During the next few days, Dick Cox mentioned his visitor a few times, but never by name, even when asked. ... The man, Cox said, was a former Ranger, who liked to brag about having killed Germans during the war. He had even boasted about cutting off their private parts afterward. Another story he had told Cox was about having gotten a German girl pregnant and then murdering her to prevent her from having the baby." Around 6 p.m on Saturday, 14 January 1950, when "George" paid Richard Cox a third visit, the two men left the grounds of the academy and vanished without a trace. Throughout the 1950s the American media considered this one of the most mysterious missing persons cases in history.
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.
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 Oblivion.
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
- "West Point". America's Book of Secrets. 2012-03-17. H2 Network.
- Maihafer, p.42.
- Maihafer, p.60.
- Maihafer, p.61.
- Maihafer, p.23.
- Brean, Herbert and Luther Conant (14 April 1952). "The Mystery of the Missing Cadet". Life. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
- 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.
- 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.