WWII POW's Treasured Ring Finds Its Way Home

After 1.5 years in prison camp, David Cox traded it for food

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 19, 2013 12:06 PM CDT

(Newser) – Last week, David Cox Jr. opened a package that had been sent to Raleigh, NC, from Germany. In it was a ring—and with it an amazing story. The gold aviator's ring had belonged to the 67-year-old's father, David Cox, who had been given it by his parents in celebration of his Army Air Corps commission in 1942. Within the year Cox was deployed to Europe, and the AP reports that his plane was shot down over Kassel, Germany, on July 28, 1943. He parachuted into a rose garden, was captured, and ended up in the POW camp immortalized in The Great Escape before marching, in January 1945, to Stalag VII-A. There, faced with bug-infested soup and bread and little hope, Cox traded it to an Italian POW for a few chocolate bars.

The camp was liberated on April 28 of that year, and Cox returned to North Carolina, where he spoke little about the war—but spoke wistfully about the ring, which he treasured enough that he had an exact replica made. It finally made its way home thanks to the arrival of an American couple in the Bavarian village of Hohenberg. Last month they met 64-year-old Martin Kiss, whose family was given the ring by a Russian solider after the war, ostensibly in exchange for room and board. Kiss knew from the inscription ("Mother & Father to David C. Cox Greensboro, NC," along with Cox's birthdate and the current year) that it belonged to an American, and with the help of the Americans and the Internet, was able to track down Cox via a 2005 master's thesis from North Carolina State University written by Cox's granddaughter's husband—which mentioned the ring. Soon after that, it was back on US soil.

This Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 photo taken in Raleigh, N.C., shows a pair of gold aviator rings, a replica, right, of the original ring, at left, that belonged to U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. David C. Cox.
This Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 photo taken in Raleigh, N.C., shows a pair of gold aviator rings, a replica, right, of the original ring, at left, that belonged to U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. David C. Cox.   (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 photo taken in Raleigh, N.C., David Cox Jr., left, and Norwood McDowell look at a gold aviator's ring that belonged to David Jr.'s father.
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 photo taken in Raleigh, N.C., David Cox Jr., left, and Norwood McDowell look at a gold aviator's ring that belonged to David Jr.'s father.   (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 photo taken in Raleigh, N.C., a gold aviator's ring that belonged to U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. David C. Cox.
In this Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 photo taken in Raleigh, N.C., a gold aviator's ring that belonged to U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. David C. Cox.   (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
This Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 photo taken in Raleigh, N.C., shows memorabilia from U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. David C. Cox's military service during World War II.
This Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 photo taken in Raleigh, N.C., shows memorabilia from U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. David C. Cox's military service during World War II.   (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
In this Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 photo, Martin Kiss, right, and his U.S. neighbor Mark Turner hold photos of a golden ring which Kiss received from his grandparents, in Herrieden, southern Germany.
In this Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 photo, Martin Kiss, right, and his U.S. neighbor Mark Turner hold photos of a golden ring which Kiss received from his grandparents, in Herrieden, southern Germany.   (AP Photo/Daniel Karmann)
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