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At the United States Military Academy at West Point, visitors are closely monitored and tabs are kept on every student for virtually every minute of the day. Yet, Richard Calvin Cox, a second-year cadet, vanished from the academy’s upstate New York campus on January 14, 1950, the first and, thus far, the last cadet to do so.

Cox was an unusually dedicated student. Ending high school in Mansfield, Ohio, as president of his class, he joined the army in 1946. He quickly rose to sergeant as a military policeman in occupied Germany and had the reputation of a sober and disciplined soldier. Once home from overseas, Cox fulfilled his long-time ambition of being appointed to West Point, where he excelled in academics and in track.

Shortly after returning from Christmas break in his second year, Cox received a telephone call from someone named George, who said that he had known Cox in Germany. The cadet met his visitor later that day, seemed glad to see him, and signed out to accompany the newcomer to dinner at the nearby Hotel Thayer. Cox returned in less time than it would have taken to dine, however, and, uncharacteristically, fell into what his roommates described as a drunken sleep over his books. When the bugle tattoo call woke him at 10:30, he jumped up, startled and disoriented, and ran into the hallway shouting “Alice!” Later, he could not say why.

The next morning, Cox described with disgust the sadistic acts recounted by his visitor, who had boasted of emasculating German dead during the war and hanging a pregnant girlfriend. Despite his obvious distaste, Cox met with the stranger again that afternoon. The next Saturday, January 14, Cox was seen talking to a civilian who looked something like George and that evening appeared in full-dress uniform to pick up his dinner pass.

When Cox did not meet his curfew, his roommates became concerned but waited until morning to notify authorities. When further investigation turned up no trace of the missing cadet, a massive search was launched. Ponds were drained, and soldiers on foot and in helicopters combed the academy grounds. Officials notified thirteen states and a number of embassies abroad to be on the lookout for Richard Cox.

For nearly two decades afterward, investigators followed up hundreds of leads, which invariably turned into blind alleys. But no trace of Cox or of the man known only as George was ever found. Although the cadet’s fate is still unknown, authorities have speculated that he might have been killed, or frightened into hiding by someone with a grudge against a former military policeman. Perhaps, they say, something out of Cox’s German experience had reached him, even behind the thick stone walls of West Point.

 


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