Rolfe Arnhym's West Point Class Ring, Lost in Vietnam War Almost a Half Century Ago, Will be Returned to Him Tuesday

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Arnhym will receive the ring Nov. 10, the day before Veterans’ Day, from Southwest Missouri resident Ruth Pendergraft. She found the ring in August in the personal effects of her late husband, who was killed in Vietnam in 1967.

He figured it was just another casualty of the war, but retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rolfe G. Arnhym will see his West Point senior class ring next week for the first time in 49 years.

Arnhym will receive the ring Tuesday, the day before Veterans’ Day, from Southwest Missouri resident Ruth Pendergraft, who just this year found the ring in the personal effects of her late husband, who was killed in Vietnam in 1967.

“I hope it will still fit after 49 years,” Arnhym jokes.

The details of this lost-and-found saga are a mystery shrouded in the fog of war, with the historical drama unfolding like this:

  •     Arnhym, a 1953 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was a Major with the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division in the Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, in the spring of 1966.
  •     During a combat operation, he noticed the Golden Sapphire stone in his West Point senior class ring had been knocked loose and had vanished. He and his radioman looked down, and were amazed to see the stone there in the monkey grass. Arnhym swooped it up, stashed it in his pocket, and continued the combat operation.
  •     That summer, while on a rest and relaxation pass in Honolulu, Arnhym asked a local jeweler to reset the stone in the ring and priority mail it to him back in Vietnam. He never saw the ring again.
  •     The jeweler must have sent the ring to an Army Post Office in Vietnam, where it may have been misrouted, and somehow, the ring came into the possession of Mrs. Pendergraft’s husband, a sergeant in the 541st Transportation Company. He was killed in action in 1967.
  •     Mrs. Pendergraft in August was going through the box of her husband’s belongings sent to her by the Army after his death years ago, and found the West Point ring. After seeing Arnhym’s name in the ring, Mrs. Pendergraft contacted West Point and eventually reached Arnhym.

“In war, there often is no certainty to anything,” says Arnhym. “I had cherished that ring, as all West Point grads do. But at that time and as the decades passed, I just chalked up its loss to the games played by the fates when men are at war, and ordered a replacement. It was simply lost along life’s trail, never to be seen again by me. I’m both confounded and elated that it has found its way back to me over 12,000 miles and 49 years.”

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Andrew Bowen, APR
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Andy Bowen
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