Gilbert "Gib" Cox
Alamo Scout helped with Cabanatuan rescue
Note: Gil is in upper left of picture
He was born on December 16, 1922 to Glenn and Laura (Nuxall) Cox in Enterprise, Oregon where he grew up and graduated from high school. He attended Oregon State University where be became an accomplished musician and star football player. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army and was initially assigned to the 11th Airborne Division. Although making several successful jumps, Gil decided that being a paratrooper was not for him. He aspired to an even more daring calling. He volunteered for the elite reconnaissance unit that became known as the Alamo Scouts. Not everybody had what it took to become a Scout, but after an intensive six-week training period, Gil made the cut and was assigned to one of twelve Alamo Scout teams commanded by Lt. William Nellist.
Although their primary mission was clandestine, behind-the-scenes reconnaissance and intelligence gathering missions, Gil’s team participated in several other important missions. His team and another Scout team slipped behind Japanese lines to affect the rescue of a prominent Dutch Governor and his family. These two teams sneaked up on the unsuspecting Japanese guards, quickly killed them all and rescued the Dutch family and a French family also being held captive. According to one of the Scout team leaders “…it was an absolutely flawless mission…it was a textbook operation.” Gil played a key role in this mission by killing several of the Japanese guards with a shotgun. This would not be the only time that Gil and his team were involved in a rescue mission.
In addition to reconnaissance missions they also served as the personal bodyguard of Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger, commanding officer of the 6th Army in New Guinea and later in the Philippines. General Krueger never went anywhere without his Alamo Scout escorts. In addition to this protective mission, the Scouts had another, more unpleasant, but necessary mission as it involved General Krueger. According to Gil, “It was also our job to kill General Krueger. If it was certain that Krueger was going to be captured, we were to shoot him.” It was said by other Scouts that General Kruger, “…could not be taken alive. He simply knew too much.”
Gil and his team participated in several reconnaissance missions in the Philippines. Even though Leyte was the invasion site for General MacArthur’s promised return to retake the Philippines, the southern island of Mindinao had been considered as a possible primary landing site. For this reason, Gil’s team under the command of Lt. Nellist made a reconnaissance of Japanese positions on Mindinao. In addition to their successful mission, during their exfiltration, they shot up Japanese troop barges, killing many of the enemy. The PT boat that was to pick them up was delayed because of a major naval engagement that took place at the same time, the battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the greatest naval battles of all time.
During the early part of the campaign to retake the main Philippine island of Luzon, Gil’s Scout team was given orders directly from General Krueger to locate some large Japanese mortars that posed a threat to the 6th Army’s advance. The team waded ashore at Lingayen Gulf in the dead of night to reconnoiter the guns. They ran into a small Japanese patrol, but quickly killed them before moving on to locate the Japanese guns. They observed the guns firing, confirming their location. Eager to get this important bit of intelligence to Krueger, the team set out only to realize that they were behind enemy lines. If they approached American lines, they might be mistaken for Japanese and fired upon. Because Gil was tall, had blond hair, and white, pasty skin, Nellist ordered him to take off his shirt, approach the American lines and announce in a loud voice that they were Americans. Nobody would mistake Gil for an infiltrating Japanese. The ruse worked and they reported the location of the Japanese guns to the 43rd Infantry artillery. The artillery battery blanketed the Japanese positions with dozens of 105- and 155mm rounds obliterating what turned out to be two large Japanese howitzers made by the German armorer, Krupp Ironworks, thus paving the way for the 6th Army’s advancement.
Because of the success of the Nellist Scout team in these two reconnaissance missions, and their successful rescue of the Dutch and French families in New Guinea, General Krueger selected his team for what would become their most important mission: the reconnaissance of Camp Cabanatuan to gather intelligence necessary for Col. Henry Mucci’s 6th Ranger Battalion, and Ranger C Company commander, Capt. Robert Prince, to effect a raid to rescue 512 Allied POWs incarcerated in the camp. These prisoners had languished in the camp under the most miserable and wretched conditions for nearly three years, and were the only survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March left in the Philippines.
During the afternoon of January 30, 1945, Lt. Nellist and three of his scouts, including Gil Cox pulled off the almost unbelievable feat of sneaking up to a little hut just outside the fence that enclosed Camp Cabanatuan. From the seclusion of the hut they spent several hours spying on the Japanese, gathering valuable intelligence about the Japanese disposition inside the camp. In broad daylight, disguised as Filipino peasants, they then managed to slip away without being detected by the Japanese guards and reported their findings to Col. Mucci and Capt. Prince. Using this timely information Capt. Prince made the final plans for the approach to the camp and the general plan for the raid that led to the liberation of all of the prisoners later that evening.
Even though the Scouts did not otherwise play a combat role in the raid, the information they acquired during their clandestine reconnaissance was instrumental in the stunning success of the raid. Despite getting all of the prisoners out, the raid was not without some casualties. One Ranger was killed during the raid, but to everybody’s great surprise, the battalion doctor, Capt. James Fisher had also been mortally wounded and had to be evacuated immediately if there was to be any hope for him. Gil and another Scout carried Capt. Fisher by stretcher to a nearby village where desperate efforts were made to stem the flow of blood from his wounds. He had received a shrapnel wound to the abdomen that lacerated his bowel and liver; he was bleeding to death. He needed a blood transfusion immediately if there were to be any hope of his survival. Gil volunteered to be the donor of a rare, direct patient-to-patient transfusion. Despite this heroic and unselfish deed, it was not enough and Capt. James Fisher, M.C. died.
Following the successful raid on Cabanatuan to liberate the POWs, some of the Scouts and Rangers, including Gil and Capt. Bob Prince were flown back to the States to participate in a bond drive. Gil met Bing Crosby during one of the bond drives in Southern California. More important, he, along with the Rangers, which included Bob Prince, were invited to the White House where they met with President Roosevelt. Gil commented that the president did not look very well. A few weeks later, President Roosevelt died.
After the war Gil came home to Oregon and married Mildred Knape. He was elected Sheriff of Wallowa County, OR, later returning to the Army during the Korean War. His family moved to Des Moines, Washington where Gil lived a quiet life away from the limelight. He worked at Boeing and later at Alaskan Copper and Brass. He loved hunting and fishing during his free time. He built his own home in Des Moines where he and his wife raised their family. Gilbert Cox is survived by his wife, Mildred; children Allison Gerst, Linda MacClellan, Joel (Barbara) Cox; grandchildren Eric Gerst, Lara Gerst, Cindie (Casey) Wolf; Pam (Evan) DeWan; great grandchildren Caden and Cole Wolf. Gilbert “Gib” Cox was laid to rest at Tohoma National Cemetery in Section 28B, site 441.
Gilbert J. “Gib” Cox of DeMoines, Washington died November 23, 2011 at the age of 88.
Information provided by John Shively, son-in-law of Malcolm Amos who credits Gil and the 6th Rangers with helping to save the men's lives.