SPENCERVILLE — Dropping out of high school in 1952, George Cox, of Spencerville, was faced with a predicament.
At the age of 18, the now 80-year-old was faced with deciding what to do career-wise in his life in his West Virginia hometown.
“There wasn’t much going on besides coal mining,” Cox said. “I didn’t want to be a coal miner.”
With the Korean War just past the midpoint, Cox decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.
After finishing basic training and motor transport training, Cox was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif. It was there that he received a call from his brother, Paul, who was two years older than him.
“He said he had just been drafted into the U.S. Army,” Cox said. “Paul said he was on his way to Korea.”
After hearing from his brother, and recognizing that many were volunteering to go to Korea, Cox and two of his friends at Camp Pendleton volunteered and were shipped out a month later. Cox arrived to a stressful assignment on April 3, 1953.
Cox drove a transport truck across enemy lines to drop off patrols at dawn. He remained until dusk, when the patrols would arrive back at his truck for transport back. He then drove the quarter mile back down the 76th Alley.
“Most of the time the patrols came back,” Cox said. “But sometimes they didn’t and we still had to drive back. It was always so quiet when you transported them. Nobody said a word. It was eerie.”
The truck Cox drove was camouflaged to avoid enemy forces as they awaited patrols returning. Driving at dawn and dusk, they had the task of driving with blackout lights. Cox said the light in which you had to operate was about the equivalent of “the head of a cigar.”
Cox said while he was proud he served, serving in the war did conjure up some bad memories. On June 14, 1953, just days before the war ended, his brother Paul was killed in action. Cox escorted his brother’s remains home to the United States on July 23, 1953, only four days before the war’s end.
Cox said he was proud of the time he served and was just happy to make it back alive.
His time served was with the 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
After Cox returned home, and went to work with Ford Motor Co., where he was offered a chance to come to Ohio to work at the Lima plant. After discussing it with his wife, they chose to move and Cox retired after 41 years of service in 1996. Cox never forgot his military past, and has served in various positions with the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In 1980, he helped found the extremely popular underprivileged children’s Christmas party in Spencerville. Cox also was a charter member of the Clown Unit and poses as the popular Herbie the Clown. Cox has been awarded numerous awards throughout the years, but said he was most proud of his induction into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame on Nov. 2, 2006. He was also the recipient of the 2009 Jefferson Award in Allen County.
As with many Korean veterans, Cox said he was given the chance to return to South Korea as part of a program administered by the South Korean government. He said the reconstruction that had happened in the country was nothing short of amazing.
“It didn’t even look like the same place,” Cox said. “When I had left there, Seoul was completely devastated. The people there were so thankful. I remember a taxi driver telling us that American veterans of the Korean War were seen as heroes. I remember while on our tour a group of Boy Scouts ran up to us and gave us high fives and said thanks.”