The Perspective of MajGen John Cox: Present at the Creation of MAWTS-1

By Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake

MajGen John Cox entered the Marine Corps via the Officer Candidate  program at Quantico, VA, and was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant in September 1952. After completing The Basic School, he reported for flight training and was desig­nated a Naval Aviator in July 1954.

Successive assignments were with all three active Marine Aircraft Wings and with the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing; service on the USS Lake Champlain; duty as an air and naval gunfire platoon commander; duty with Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 451, VMF 333, and VMA 324. He completed Communications Officers School, served as Communications Officer at MAG 15, El Toro, and later was Operations Officer of VMFA 513 at El Toro, Atsugi and DaNang (1962 1965).

He graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College in 1967, and after serving as an instructor at the Naval War College, he returned to Vietnam for a second tour of duty, serving as Commanding Officer of VMFA 115 and as Executive officer of MAG 13 at ChuLai.

Tours of duty in the 1970s include Executive Officer of MCAS, Kaneohe Bay, and duty on the staff of the Commander in Chief, Pacific. After graduation from the National War College in 1974, General Cox reported for duty at Headquarters Marine Corps. He was promoted to brigadier general on Nov. 4, 1977. Duty as Assistant Wing Commander, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Commanding General, 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, Assistant Chief of Staff at Headquarters Marine Corps, Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development and Studies at Headquarters Marine Corps, and Commanding General, MCAS El Toro/ COMCABWEST, followed.

He was promoted to major general on April 9, 1981, with a date of rank of Aug. 1, 1978. He assumed command of the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, CA, in May 1981. In June 1982, he was assigned duty as the Director for Operations, J 3, for the Commander in Chief, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii. He served in this capacity until July 1, 1985, when he retired from the Marine Corps on July 1, 1985.

During his career he amassed 5,043 hours total flight time and was a rated pilot in nearly every Marine Corps fixed-wing aircraft of the Cold War era, including the F6F Hellcat, AD-4 Skyraider, FJ-4 Fury, F8U Crusader, and F-4 Phantom II.

We had chance to talk with him on December 4, 2023 to get his perspective on MAWTS-1.

MajGen John Cox provided an important insight with regard to the origin of MAWTS. When he came out of the National War College in 1974, he went to work at Headquarters USMC in Aviation where he was for the four critical years which would birth Project 19 and eventually MAWTS. He underscored that a key person in all of this was Lt. Gen. Philip Shutler, one of the pioneers of modern USMC aviation.

According to Cox: “Shutler as considered the idea man for USMC Aviation, and he did a good job of pulling things together and coming up with achievable and important missions.”

While working with Shutler, they came up with 21 projects to improve USMC aviation. Project 19 was focused on training and became the context for the creation of MAWTS-1. Cox was there at the creation, and we can thank him for his contribution to the USMC and to the nation.

Cox- John V