Ring found on D-Day beach is mysterious legacy of unknown Culver soldier

The Culver Academies Museum & Gift Shop, at 102 S. Main Street in downtown Culver, has recently become home to a unique and fascinating historical mystery.

The museum was contacted earlier this year by John Carr Pierce, who described -- and offered to send to the museum -- a Culver Black Horse Troop ring found on the beaches of Normandy on June 7, 1944, the day after the D-Day invasion.

The ring, said Pierce, was found by his grandfather, Dr. Alexander Webster Pierce, a M.A.S.H. surgeon who served for four years overseas during the war and retired as a major. He was awarded a Purple Heart, among other commendations.

Dr. Pierce, said his grandson, went on to serve as the head of the Texas Pediatric Association; currently a memorial pediatric clinic exists at the hospital in Wichita Falls, in his name.

John Pierce noted his grandfather's character was such that he most certainly would not have stolen the ring or brought it back as a "war token."

"This was the only item that he brought back," Pierce continued, "and I am sure that he would be happy to learn that it should be returned to to whence is came."

Dr. Pierce passed away some years ago, in his grandson's hands during 17-year-old John's visit one summer.

While John Carr Pierce has no direct association with Culver, he noted he attended a military academy in San Antonio as well as The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, graduating from Centre College in Kentucky.

Museum staff and Academies historian Bob Hartman have no theory at present who the owner of the ring might have been. While it's reasonable to assume the wearer was a Culver Military Academy graduate who fought on D-Day -- which would narrow the field of possibilities considerably -- even that much cannot be certain. The ring bears no name or other inscription indicating to whom it belonged, so for now its exhibit at the museum simply tells the story of Dr. Alexander Pierce, and the ring gives mute testimony to the sacrifices of the soldier who presumably once spent youthful days at study, work, and play here in Culver.

"I think (the ring) might have served as a reminder of the horrors of war," said John Carr Pierce, referring to his grandfather's having kept it over the years, "yet still the dedication of our military service members, past and present."

The Culver Academies Museum & Gift Shop is open Thursdays through Mondays. Check www.culver.org/museum for exact hours.