Mini bonus post: Were Richard Cox’s FBI documents kept in the Identification Division’s ‘missing person file room’ too?

Richard Colvin Cox

Considering how similar the Ron Tammen and Richard Cox disappearances seemed to be, one question that may have crossed your minds at some point is: were Richard Cox’s missing person documents handled the same way as Ron Tammen’s? In other words, were some of Cox’s documents stamped “Return to Ident Missing Person File Room” too?

Also, you may recall that other Tammen documents had been stamped “Retain permanently in Ident jacket #358-406-B”—Ron’s fingerprint jacket—before they were “removed from Ident files” in June 1973. Was there a phrase on Cox’s documents to “Retain permanently in Ident jacket” too? We know the FBI had Cox’s fingerprints on file because of his Army ties, so he should have had a fingerprint jacket too.

To the best of my knowledge, the answer is “no” to both questions.

I know that some of you aren’t convinced that there was a missing person file room per se. But even so…the FBI seemed to be treating the two cases differently, even though there were distinct similarities between them and they’d occurred only three years apart.

Admittedly, I’ve been eyeballing hundreds of pages today and there’s a chance I may have missed something.

And so…I’ve decided to post all of Richard Cox’s FBI documents on this website. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the FBI’s files on Cox have ever been posted in their (supposed) entirety online before. Feel free to explore them at your leisure. There’s quite a bit there and some of it makes for fascinating reading. Also, if you do spot either of the above phrases, or anything else of interest, please let me know. You can find the three CDs’ worth of documents at the bottom of the home page, in the same area as the other documents I’ve posted.

Lastly, if their estimate is still on target, I should be hearing from the Department of Justice by early February regarding my appeal concerning Richard Cox’s Additional Record Sheets. It would be a huge deal if they rule in my favor. I don’t think anyone has ever requested—and received—Additional Record Sheets from the FBI before. Fingers crossed.

25 thoughts on “Mini bonus post: Were Richard Cox’s FBI documents kept in the Identification Division’s ‘missing person file room’ too?

  1. 1. I suspect the supposed Florida sighting was faked by the FBI. It seems odd that he’d tell some strange guy at a bar that he was the AWOL student from West Point and to watch the news because something big was stirring in Cuba (presumably Bay of Pigs). That’s not a great way to keep your cover. Then Mr. Random also happens to be an FBI informant…let’s just say a literary agent would send that one back to the author.

    2. I wonder if the reason(s) Cox and Tammen’s files were treated differently was because of their assignments within the CIA*, if that’s where they did go. Section 1, page 9 of the Cox files I’m reminded that he had a prominent scar on his arm and a “trick knee” that caused an occasional limp, which might not be ideal for certain work if you’re trying to remain unmemorable (assassinations, tailing people, whatever).

    3. Only a bit into Section 1, but I’m going to need convincing that Richard was gay. Page 27 would be more helpful without the redactions, but it reads to me as at best, nasty gossipy hearsay, and at worst like they think Cox is a terrible person for running away and needs his life completely ruined.

    4. I would say there is some similarities in how the cases were treated, since the FBI seemed to not follow up on Mr Sandage’s 1952 tip, so they either knew where Richard was and didn’t need to, didn’t find it credible for some reason, were pursuing other leads and dropped this one, or “forgot” to include anything else that had to do with this part of their investigation.

    *I’m also thinking the NSA was formally established in 1952, though its roots go back to 1917, and its existence not revealed to the public until ’75. The NSA rarely does in-person evidence gathering, instead does more cypher breaking, data analysis, in more recent years computer and cyber intelligence, etc. I’m going to presume, though, you could probably learn something that might make you believe your loved ones would be in danger if you returned home…like knowing your organization fudged information about the Gulf of Tonkin incidents or wiretapped prominent American citizens critical of the Vietnam War.

    I feel like perhaps the biggest commonality the two men had were perhaps feeling disrespected or misunderstood by their families. Everyone insists Cox was close to his mother (the same mother who wouldn’t get him medical attention for his arm and had to be taken by a neighbor). And his sister said he couldn’t have joined the CIA because he didn’t have the “brains or heart” for intelligence work, which makes me wonder if they discouraged him (once would be bad enough, but if it were regularly!) about his dreams and aspirations. His siblings were also certain he wouldn’t have voluntarily disappeared and made no effort to come home, but perhaps he believed it would be an adventure for a few years, then he’d be returning, and something happened.

    1. Amazing comments. I plan to respond, but it could take me a while….probably tomorrow. But wow. Thanks for putting so much time and thought into this question.

      1. I started last night and went to bed forgetting to send it. Luckily I just closed my laptop lid without clicking out of the browser tab and losing most of it! 🙃

    2. Hi–again, thank you so much for these insightful comments. Here are my thoughts:

      1. Agree that it does seem odd that someone supposedly tied to the CIA would be so chatty, especially about Cuba/Castro. They were at a bar though…and people do say more than usual when drinking. The name he went by — Richard Mansfield — seems to be consistent with how an alias is created. It’s a familiar word that he wouldn’t forget (Mansfield being the town in Ohio where he was from). For those who don’t know what encounter we’re discussing, here’s a link to an FBI memo that describes it: https://ronaldtammen.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Richard-Cox-SAC-Miami-5-27-60.pdf.

      2. Yes, good point. Unmemorable was a desirable trait for CIA. But, to be honest, I don’t think a trick knee would have been a dealbreaker if he had other characteristics that might be useful.

      3. Regarding the question of whether Richard Cox was gay, the document you mention (CD#1, Sect. 1, p 27) probably isn’t discussing Cox (imo), but perhaps someone who may have known Cox. It’s tough to say. In my 1-11-2019 write-up, I discussed the documents on CD#2, Sect. 8, p. 63-69, which (imo) could lead someone to conclude Cox was gay, or at least bisexual or experimenting. First: Tony Pastor’s was a gay-friendly bar, and Richard Cox went there alone…in 1948. That’s saying something. According to Victor Wolf, whom I strongly believe was gay (he and his roommate were abruptly asked to move out of their apartment for being known BLANKs), Cox was surprised and embarrassed to bump into Wolf at Tony Pastor’s. Also, Wolf said he had the feeling that it wasn’t the first time that Cox had been there. So Cox seemed to feel at home in a gay bar in 1948, which, again, is saying something. Later that night, Cox went to Wolf’s hotel room, where another unnamed person was also staying, and then something had awakened Wolf in the middle of the night–something that the FBI felt needed extreme redacting. It all sounds like a gay encounter, which is reinforced by this statement at the top of page 69: “Will contact informants in the New York area who are familiar with homosexual activity for any information concerning Subject.”

      I’d like to add something about the completely whited-out encounter in Victor Wolf’s hotel room. I attempted to have those redactions lifted, because it didn’t seem as if they were based on approved exemptions. As a means of comparison, I also have the relatively recent FBI file of someone who was a sexual predator, and there are absolutely no redactions regarding the sexual details in his file. Only the names and personally identifiable info of family members and victims are redacted. So the FBI didn’t have a problem with sending me that disturbing file. But a paragraph describing Richard Cox’s night out with a couple other consenting adults in Manhattan in April of 1948? Apparently, that’s verboten.

      4. I think both Cox and Tammen were respected by their families, but I’d agree that perhaps they were also misunderstood. Regarding the FBI’s lack of follow-up on some leads: The FBI and CIA weren’t on the friendliest of terms back then. I think the FBI wouldn’t have known certain details until later on. Once they did learn them, they would have brought their investigation to a halt.

      For example, on page 165 of the book Oblivion, it describes information shared by Ralph Johns, a high school friend of Cox’s, to Jim Underwood, the reporter for the Mansfield News Journal who’d researched the case extensively.

      “Johns also told Underwood that on one occasion, when discussing the Cox case with former FBI agent Vince Napoli, Napoli told him and McKee [a friend of Johns’] that the FBI had been within twenty-four hours of grabbing Cox, and he couldn’t understand why the FBI would not let them pick him up or why they pulled them off the case.”

      I’ve often wondered if the same had occurred with Tammen’s case. The FBI had started looking for him, and then they stopped.

      1. Sadly, my brain is pretty much a card catalogue of random information that’s been through the shredder then tossed by a tornado. Useful for connecting random things in ways no one else sees, also highly distracted by the newest shiny piece of information. Also likes to confuse where I got previous information as well as names, dates, times, locations, etc, so that’s fun. 😩

        1. I’m going to be somewhat stubborn about this one and say while the sighting is plausible, it’s equally likely made-up, and the FBI would at least have known how to create an alias. RE: the CIA & FBI rivalry – I had the thought that perhaps this sighting didn’t even have anything to do with Richard, and everything to do with Hoover being a Type-A personality and keeping his fingers in everyone’s business. This would be a pretty eye-catching way to show Dulles he knew what was going on in the organization.

        2. I didn’t explain myself clearly. A trick knee or prominent scar definitely doesn’t rule out undercover work so much as the specific work or with whom Cox would interact (IE, probably not under multiple aliases where highly-trained KGB agents could sniff him out, but perhaps deep cover with one alias gaining the confidence of locals).

        3. I’ll defer to your expertise. Right now I’m not sure I can even concentrate enough on poorly-scanned, type-written documents that are half whited out and can’t be searched and I need to magnify 350% to read to even be helpful with any of them for any reason, let alone that.

        4. I agree respected and misunderstood, but having suffered from mental health issues from the age of 7, misunderstood often feels like disrespect, particularly as a teenager or young adult, until you get more life experience (and therapy). Even if it’s a reality check coming from a place of love, if it’s worded crassly it hurts more than helps. I was also listening to the podcast, and heard your interview with Marcia. What are the chances that the FBI’s follow-up interviews in later years were not because they were looking for Tammen, but looking for someone looking for him (KGB or an American associate of such)?

        Also, Yahoo News just published this article. It’s about a military intelligence officer who committed suicide, and there were other, underlying factors, but it kind of gives insight into how the US intelligence community operates as a whole, but you can extrapolate how much worse things were back in the 50s and 60s. Particularly interesting was that operatives have to remain highly vigilant even when they’re not on a mission, but just around family and friends, to not accidentally let slip classified information.

        https://news.yahoo.com/an-army-clandestine-operative-concealed-his-mental-health-problems-until-it-was-too-late-is-the-military-to-blame-100004941.html

      2. I’m going to start with #4 and work my way backwards, just to shake things up a little. 🙂

        4. Amazing article. I’ve never considered how stressful it must be to live that sort of clandestine life. And to have a traumatic brain injury on top of it and NOT be given an MRI–not only is it unthinkable, it’s unconscionable. Thank you for sharing the link.

        Also, thank you for your comment about how being misunderstood can feel like being disrespected. I totally get that. I can think of times when I’ve been on both sides of that scenario, and how damaging and emotionally painful it can be.

        So, a few more thoughts on that topic: In the cases of Ron Tammen and Richard Cox, everyone seemed to respect them for their outward skills and talents…intelligence, athletic ability, etc., etc. But if they also happened to be gay, their friends/family/teachers/you-name-it would have known very little about who they were down deep. And I can imagine guys in that era when they’re talking about sex. They’d use derogatory phrases to describe someone who didn’t fit their specs of how a guy should be. If Ron or Richard happened to be standing with such a group, they’d probably laugh along with them, but they’d be feeling intense shame on the inside—the whole “if they only knew” thing. So I can imagine Ron and Richard being respected for all the outward stuff but misunderstood for all the stuff they would have needed to keep hidden. And down deep, they must have felt that if those same people knew the truth about them, then they would have lost all respect for them, which must have felt horrible. It might have even felt like an either/or scenario: if they respect me, they don’t understand me, and if they understand me, they won’t respect me.

        Re: Marcia and the FBI visits to her parents’ home, yes, perhaps there may have been other reasons for those visits. It’s so difficult to know without the evidence. I would SO love to read whatever records were created at that time, as well as the records from their conversations with Richard Titus, Charles Findlay, and anyone else. It seems so odd to me that the interview records would end up being the evidence that the FBI saw fit to destroy, while holding onto 23 pages of nothing. Interestingly, the FBI has managed to hold onto records from so many of the interviews they’d conducted when Richard Cox went missing.

        3. Trust me, I can relate. Those documents are so hard to get through…and deadly dull. And of course, they don’t make it easy for you. I’m no computer expert, but it seems as if they intentionally made the PDFs unsearchable. I didn’t know you could do that, but I guess they can?

        2. Oh, good point–if not dealbreakers, those characteristics could be limiting.

        1. Yep, I can see your point here too. I’ve met with Jim Underwood, and he believed it was Cox, but I can see what you’re saying.

        Lastly, here’s a little something about me: I can be a control freak. When I first created this blog, I mainly considered it to be a vehicle for informing people about my discoveries and building an audience. I didn’t listen much to what visitors to the site had to say.

        But over time, I’ve changed. Readers such as yourself have made this blog site so much better because of what you bring to it. All of that “random information that’s been through the shredder then tossed by a tornado” that you lament adds value. Those random insights and connections help me look at something in a new way, which brings about new ideas and discoveries. Seriously. Remember in 2019 when I put the site on hiatus because I’d thought I’d shared all my intel? After I reopened it, I began to discover new things–and those new things were influenced greatly by reader input. We’re all different people with a different set of experiences. So thank you, Julie, for what you’re able to bring to the potluck–and thanks to everyone else as well.

  2. My thoughts are that if the theories of FBI/CIA recruitment of Richard Cox and Ron Tammen are both true, then the two men were absolutely connected in some way. And if there is no way to connect the dots between the two men, at least one of those two theories has to be wrong. Unless the FBI and CIA were just randomly plucking up college age men from Ohio willy nilly. And if both theories are true, I’d expect to see at least a few other similar missing persons cases. Ron and Richard wouldn’t be the only two, I’d think.

    1. The possible Cox sighting in Oxford is so interesting, especially since no one from the FBI brings it up when Ron goes missing too. I find it really odd that someone from the FBI didn’t make that connection. However, if the two cases are connected, I struggle with how Doc Switzer might have known Cox. I’m just not sure there. As for other recruits, maybe, although the CIA might have soured on Ohio after both Cox and Tammen had made so much news. Maybe they changed their recruiting tactics as a result. Bear in mind that this is all speculation on my part. The points you raise are good and I don’t disagree with you. 👍

      1. I should probably add that it’s not necessary that Doc Switzer know Richard Cox for the two cases to be connected. But if Richard Cox really was spotted in Oxford, and he was doing CIA work, then I’d think that he would have to meet Switzer at some point. But here I am speculating again…

      2. I hear you. I don’t readily see it either. But it all feels too random otherwise. Random, but with a thread tying them together. And the CIA and FBI are not just random in their activities. And that’s just my immediate gut reaction. I wasn’t too familiar with Richard Cox before. That possible sighting in Oxford is intriguing.

      3. The story of the apparent restaurant encounter between Richard and the West Point acquaintance made me wonder what might have happened in New York when the Miami acquaintance saw Ron but said nothing.

      4. Oh, that’s a great point! Btw, I was just reviewing my notes on the Cox FBI files, and the Oxford sighting is on the 3rd CD, section 12, pages 119 and 138.

      5. P.S. Note that the files on the CDs aren’t keyword searchable–by design, I’m sure. I literally had to comb through every one of those sections until I reached section 12 and found the part about Oxford, Ohio.

  3. Oh, my! I can’t wait to go through these documents in-between my current screenwriting projects! Anything pertaining to Cox has my attention! And any possible connection to Ron, too! Thank you, J! And for all your hard work!

  4. Fingers definitely crossed here 😀
    This is great stuff as always.
    Possible you could end up 2 birds one stone in all of this?
    Would be incredible.
    All the best

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