Wyo. Woman Recovers Class Ring Lost In WWII B-17 Crash In South Pacific

The ring was given back to her during a ceremony organized at the American Legion Hall in Lander. Before it was lost, the ring was kept by Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bob” Greibel, Betty’s first husband, who served in the South Pacific from 1943.

Robert Greibel, successfully ended 39 missions in his B-17 aircraft, nicknamed the Naughty but Nice. His final mission killed him and eight of his crewmembers. There was only one survivor, who parachuted from the aircraft and made it out alive.

Betty Hoopengarner met her future husband Greibel a few years after she graduated from Fremont County Vocational High School in Lander in 1936. She met him at a social gathering event for farmers, at the Morton Grange Hall, the Standard-Examiner reports.

Betty said they had no money and they both lived from farming. She milked cows and he grew potatoes. “How could we be anything but healthy,” she said. They married in August 1942, the year when Bob decided to sign up for the United States Army. Betty admitted on finding it very difficult at the time to separate from her husband, but she knew they were all supposed to make sacrifices.

Bob took his wife’s ring after finishing his basic training in Arizona and before leaving for the South Pacific. Bob gave Betty a wedding ring, so she gave him her high school class ring. Betty thinks Bob wore the ring together with his dog tags, since it was too small to fit him. It was the only way they could feel closer to each other. “I wanted to go with him in the worst way,” said Betty, who wanted so much to help out, she was ready to give up teaching and sign up.

She had been teaching for four years when she enlisted to serve in Accra, West Africa. She said the war was hell and that men really like to fight but unfortunately, they don’t survive it.

The Naughty but Nice departed from Dobodura, New Guinea, on June 26, 1943. The 43rd Bombardment Group, 65th squadron was heading for Rabaul, New Britain Island, when the aircraft carrying 10 men aboard was shot down by anti-aircraft fire. Among the remains found at the crashing site, was a high school class ring, engraved with the year – 1936 and the initials BH. “I just almost fell off my chair,” said Betty, recalling how she was reading the report in which it was stated that her ring was found.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE