In the Battle of Formosa, the US naval air force did much to destroy Japanese bases for the island battles still to come. Japanese forces retaliated with heavy and repeated land-based air attacks. USS Houston (CL-81) splashed about four aircraft in one attack on 12 October 1944, and helped repel another attack next day, in which Canberra was hit by an aerial torpedo. Taking Canberra's old station on 14 October, Houston and other ships encountered another heavy air raid. Her gunners shot down three of the attacking torpedo bombers, but a fourth's torpedo hit her engine room, causing the loss of propulsive power. Captain Behrens requested a tow, which was undertaken by Boston.
By , both Canberra and Houston were under tow toward Ulithi for repairs. Pawnee – a fleet tug – assumed the tow on 16 October. Late that afternoon, one of the Japanese torpedo plane strikes from Formosa, still trying to sink the cruiser, struck Houston directly on her stern from the rear. This flooded the hangar for Houston's scout planes. Evacuating all surplus sailors to the escorting ships, Captain Behrens and his damage control officer, with the aid of Houston's Executive Officer, Captain Clarence J. Broussard, kept the damage control parties working, and they managed to keep Houston afloat, traveling slowly toward Ulithi.
F1c Cox was killed in action and buried at sea by his shipmates.