U S Military Academy at West Point

  Last Updated: 7/21/00


    The USMA library has a display of academy rings. The three rings centered and highlighted in the middle of the case are those of Generals MacArthur, Bradley, and Eisenhower. Rings shown from more recent classes belonged to those who unfortunately died in recent conflicts while serving their country.

    Although begun in 1835, there is no ring for 1836; the reason is unknown but it is a fact. Prior to1869, cadets designed their own rings. A ring committee was established in 1869 to attempt to bring some uniformity to the design of the rings. The standard for the basic design of the ring was to have the Academy Crest on one side of the ring and the Class Crest on the other. This was a major step but the rings were still not uniform in that some had large eagles on one side and small eagles on the other. However, in 1881 uniformity began to take place in both style and substance. It is also interesting to note that the Class of 1879 adopted cufflinks rather than a ring and a set of these cufflinks is included in the ring display at the Library.
    The Academy Crest that appears on today's rings is the one adopted in 1898 and after 1917,dies for the mountings were identically cast for the USMA crest and not individually hand styled as before. The custom of a class ring committee still continues today and has as its function designing the Class Crest which appears on one side of the ring. With the adoption of Class Mottos which are unique to each class, they are also included in the Class Crest. Although the Class Ring Committee is responsible for recommending a design of the Class Crest, it must include the letters USMA, an eagle, an officer's sabre, a cadet sabre, the arrows and leaves from the national emblem, and the Class Motto. Up until the late 1980's, Class Crests were generally monochromatic but today are colorized.
    Tradition and custom also dictate the wearing of the class ring. Prior to graduation, the Class Ring is worn with the Class Crest closest to the heart signifying the closeness of the class. After graduation, the ring is worn with the Academy Crest closest to the heart signifying closeness with the Academy. A small problem arose with the admission of women in that the man's ring is too large for the female hand and a miniature version would connote engagement. The ring companies developed an appropriate size for the women graduates.

    The price of a 1951 class ring was $69.60. One graduate of '51 lost his and ordered a replacement in 1993 which cost $767.14.

    Miniatures are reproductions of class rings made smaller to wear as engagement rings. They symbolize the same ideals, customs, and traditions as class rings and are given not in a sense of parting with the ring, no more than a man would part with his class ring, but, rather, as an engagement ring for one who will share in army life the ideals, traditions and customs that the class ring symbolizes. Miniatures are normally given by First Classmen to their fiancees at the annual Ring Hop (dance).

    The "A" pin has the same sentiment, meaning, and significance as the college fraternity pin. It should never be given with any lack of discrimination, and only with a full appreciation of what the pin represents to the Corps and West Point. "A" pins may be purchased at any time in a cadet's career at West Point and given to their Mothers, sisters, and OAO's (One and Only).

    THE FIRST RING DINNER WITH THE CORPS It was traditional that plebes would prepare a skit for the first dinner after the First Class received their rings. The theme revolved around the plebes inspection and admiration of the new rings and the faux destruction of the table commandant's ring. This often involved fire or mechanical destruction and, at least once, all (table commandant included) enjoyed the sight of a ring (fake we thought) flying through the air across the Mess Hall. The event actually made one plebe a legend in his own time.

    Another tradition dealing with the rings has to do with the plebe's reactions to first seeing the new rings at which time they are required to state:

    "Oh my Gosh, Sir/Ma'am, what a beautiful ring.
    What a crass mass of brass and glass.
    What a bold mold of rolled gold.
    What a cool jewel you got from your school.
    See how it sparkles and shines.
    It must have cost you a fortune
    Please Sir/Ma'am May I touch it,
    May I touch it Please Sir/Ma'am."

    A change instituted in 1998 is that Plebes are no longer required or, in fact, allowed to get on their knees to say the above phrase!

    The ring ceremony at which the Tacs present the rings to their First Classmen occurs shortly after completion of Beast Barracks (CBT) and is the first time the Plebes get to enjoy themselves by good naturedly 'hazing' the Firsties about their new rings.


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