His mother was Henrietta. He graduated from Southwest High School in Kansas City. He met his wife His wife Beverly June Froman when they were students at the University of Kansas City. They were married July 6, 1942.
On May 1, 1943 Cotten was the co-pilot on B-24D #41-42513 serving with the 10th Air Force, 7th Bombardment Group, 492nd Bombardment Squadron. They were part of an eight plane mission to bomb Japanese cargo ships in the harbor at Rangoon, Burma. Immediately after dropping their bombs they were attacked by enemy fighter planes, knocking out two engines and wounding four of the crew. Their plane fell out of formation and the fighters continued their attacks until the bomber was able to lose them in cloud cover.
Approximately an hour later they were finally unable to keep the plane in the air and crash landed in a rice paddy northwest of Bassein, Burma. By this point three of the crew had died of their wounds. The remaining crew set out on foot through the jungle in hopes of reaching India. They were attacked by Japanese patrols three time over the following week (one crewman was killed) before finally being captured and taken to Rangoon Central Jail. Cotten remained a prisoner until the war ended.
He received the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.
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