Wednesday, October 23, 2019

"If My Name Was Dick Cox, I'd Disappear Too"

WARNING: No bourbon content.

Richard Colvin Cox was a cadet at the United States Military Academy when he disappeared on January 14, 1950. He was 21 years old.

His mysterious disappearance, the only such event in West Point history, was a major national story at the time. I wasn't born yet but I grew up with the tale because Cox was a local boy. My family knew his family.

What does the swimming pool in the picture above have to do with it? That's the Woodland Club, in Mansfield, Ohio, where I spent most of every summer during my youth. I knew some of Cox's relatives from there and that's where I heard the stories, about ten years after the fact. That's also where I heard the immortal line in the headline above. Cox's true fate was never learned, but that always seemed like a good explanation to us kids, some of whom were his nieces and nephews.

The story goes like this. Three times over the course of a week, Cox was visited by a young man whose first name may have been George. On the third occasion, Cox and 'George' left the campus and were never seen again. According to an eyewitness account from another cadet, the two men seemed to know each other from somewhere other than West Point.

Because Cox had been in Army Intelligence, stationed in Germany, prior to his appointment to the Academy, it was always suspected that his disappearance involved espionage. Although there were many investigations, official and unofficial, and much speculation, Cox's disappearance was never explained.

As kids, we treated it as a joke, but such mysteries can leave deep marks. My great grandmother, Celia Schwartz, lived to be 101, so I knew her well. She had four sisters and one brother. The brother, Harold, left home as a young man to "seek his fortune" and never was heard from again. The mystery haunted grandma for the rest of her long life.

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