Sunday, August 25, 2013

Samaritan Sunday (August 25, 2013) -- A World War II POW's Ring Comes Home 70 Years Later

[If you should choose to adopt this prompt to contribute your own stories of folks who have gone out of their way to lend genealogy-related assistance to others, I would greatly appreciate a mention to Filiopietism Prism whenever you do so.  Thank you!  And please do use the same photograph below to illustrate the prompt.  ;-) ]

In the early months of 1945, the Red Cross food deliveries had essentially ceased at Stalag VII-A, Germany's largest prisoner-of- war camp located outside Moosburg, Bavaria, Germany.  Lt. David C. Cox from North Carolina was a co-pilot in a B-17 Flying Fortress that was shot down over Germany on July 28, 1943.  After initially being imprisoned in Stalag Luft III (the camp of The Great Escape fame), Lt. Cox was transferred to Moosberg in a consolidation of prisoners-of-war during the gradual collapse of the Third Reich.  By the time of liberation on April 29, 1945, there were 80,000 prisoners at Moosberg.  Food was scarce and consisted mainly of bug-infested bread and soup!  

Lt. Cox found himself flying B-17s after leaving college and enlisting following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He applied to the Army Air Corps and was accepted on his second attempt.  In celebration of his graduation from flight school on July 26, 1942, he married his high school girlfriend, Hilda Walker. And in celebration of his graduation and commission, his parents, Irvin and Connie Bell Cox, presented him with a gold signet ring featuring a raised propeller and wings.  Inside the ring an engraving read, "Mother & Father to David C. Cox Greensboro, NC 10-4-18-42" [David's birthdate followed by the year of the gift].

Near starving and exposed to winter's cruelties on top of everything else, David Cox finally reached the point where he removed the gold signet ring his parents had given him and passed it through a fence to an Italian POW in exchange for a couple of chocolate candy bars.  It was the last David Cox ever saw of his ring.  But it was not the last that the Cox family would see of David's ring, for it is now a much-cherish family heirloom!

David Cox, Jr. is the son of Lt. David Cox and he now has his father's ring some 70 years after it was exchanged through a prison fence for the nourishment of two chocolate bars.  The ring traveled a long and circuitous route and, thanks to some Good Samaritans, it found its way back to David Cox Jr. in North Carolina.  The story and the route home began with the exchange to an Italian POW, but it also involves a Russian soldier making his way home after the war through present-day Serbia, a Hungarian family that owned a pub, a grandmother who wanted to give her grandson a good luck token that could also provide funds in an emergency, a church painter's immigration to Germany, an American seeking an air traffic controller's job at a U.S. Army airbase in Germany, and a friendly, serendipitous dinner invitation by neighbors.  Read the details of this amazing story and decide for yourself who the Good Samaritans are by going here.  And then go here to read more and see a photo of the ring.
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Photograph of the The Good Samaritan sculpture by Francois-Leon Sicard (1862 - 1934).  The sculpture is located in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France.  The photograph is by Marie-Lan Nguyen and has been placed in the public domain by her. See,
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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