Jun 28, 2016

The Mysterious Disappearance of Richard Colvin Cox

Richard Colvin Cox from Mansfield, Ohio, was conforming to the expectations of Cold War culture, to the letter.  In high school he was an accomplished athlete and well-liked by both adults and other teens.  After graduation he was stationed in Germany for two years, and then was admitted to the prestigious U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he planned to graduate as a commissioned officer.

He spent Christmas 1949 back home in Mansfield, visiting his parents and hometown girlfriend.  He returned just after the New Year, ready to begin classes again.

On January 7th, a gruff, demanding man called the barracks and asked to speak with "Dick Cox."  Peter Hains, the cadet who answered the phone remembered him as gruff and impolite: "He'll know who I am.  We knew each other in Germany."  Hains was "fairly certain" that he gave his name as George.

That evening "George" stopped by, and he and Richard left together.  Instead of going to the Hotel Thayer, the only place cadets could bring visitors, they sat in "George's" car and drank whiskey.

Richard returned to the barracks drunk, and fell asleep.  When he heard the final bugle call, he jumped up and ran out into the hallway, screaming something incoherent.  Some of the cadets heard "Allus kaput!" (It's all over) in German, and others, "Is Alice down there?"

During the next few days, Richard met with "George" several more times.  He told his bunkmates that he was disagreeable, a "morbid guy" who liked to castrate the German soldiers he killed.  But he didn't seem afraid of "George," just annoyed.

On January 14th, Richard announced some distaste that he was going to have dinner with "that guy" again.  He left his room at 6:00 pm, and was never seen again.

Over the next weeks, the local police, the army, and the FBI mounted one of the largest manhunts in history.

What they discovered was perplexing:

Richard -- or his body -- was nowhere on the base.

He couldn't have driven off the base.  He would have had to sign out.

He couldn't have walked off, since his footprints would be found in the newfallen snow.

That means he had to have left in someone's truck, willingly or not.

He probably wasn't intending to go anywhere, since he left a large sum of money back in his room.

UNLESS he wanted to implicate this "George" as his murderer, the better to disappear off the face of the Earth.

Painstaking research never revealed the identity of "George."  No one like him served in Germany with Richard.  Maybe it was all a carefully planned con to allow Richard to disappear.

What would cause a well-liked, successful cadet to want to vanish during his second year at West Point?

Hundreds of calls came in over the next decade, stating that Richard had been sighted in various distant locales.  They all turned out to be false leads.  In spite of the concerted effort of the U.S. Military and the FBI, the mystery was never solved.

In Oblivion: The Mystery of West Point Cadet Richard Cox, Harry J. Maihafer uncovers a reason.  He was gay. In 1950, being discovered would cause him to get booted from the military, arrested, disowned by his family, and probably placed in an insane asylum, where he would be subject to castration and electroshock therapy.  Better to just vanish, leaving behind a mysterious story and the suggestion that he had been murdered