By Samuel J. Cox Rear Adm., USN (retired) Director of Naval History, Curator for the Navy Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Stewart Andrew “Stew” Ring, U.S. Navy (Retired) on 17 July 2021 at age 87. Rear Admiral Ring enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1956, was commissioned through Officer Candidate School the same year and served as a surface line officer until his retirement in 1987 as the U.S. Pacific Command Director of Plans and Policy (J5.) His commands included USS Fortify (MSO-446), during which he received a Combat Action Ribbon for Vietnam War operations and Navy Recruiting Area Eight.
Stew Ring was the son of Vice Admiral Stanhope Cotton Ring, who led USS Hornet’s air group during the Battle of Midway. He attended the University of Maryland in Munich and the University of Paris before graduating from Georgetown School of Foreign Service in 1956. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 13 July 1956, reporting to Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, in August 1956. He was commissioned an ensign on 13 December 1956 and continued on active duty. Ensign Ring’s first duty assignment was the destroyer Yarnall (DD-541) for her last Western Pacific deployment and decommissioning. In September 1958, Lieutenant (junior grade) Ring arrived at Fleet Training Center San Diego for duty under instruction. He augmented into the U.S. Navy in October 1958. The next month he reported to the staff of Commander, Destroyer Squadron Five in San Diego, deployed to the Western Pacific.
In October 1959, Lieutenant (j.g.) Ring reported to Naval Schools, Mine Warfare, Charleston, South Carolina. In December 1959, he assumed duty as the executive officer for ocean minesweeper Persistent (MSO-491,) conducting research at the Navy Acoustic Range in Puget Sound. In November 1960, he reported to the staff of Commander Mine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, as flag lieutenant and aide to Commander Naval Base Los Angeles-Long Beach. He was promoted to lieutenant in December 1960. In July 1962, Lieutenant Ring was assigned to the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Unit at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a master’s of arts in political science.
In June 1963, Lieutenant Ring assumed duty as Executive Officer of destroyer escort Bridget (DE-1024) for a Western Pacific and Vietnam deployment. In December 1964, he assumed command of ocean minesweeper Fortify (MSO-446) for operations in Vietnamese waters as part of Operation Market Time. Fortify had been modified to monitor Viet Cong radio transmissions and to guide South Vietnamese Navy vessels to interdict enemy vessels. The ship was occasionally threatened by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. During this time, he earned a Combat Action Ribbon. Ring was promoted to lieutenant commander in March 1965.
In July 1966, Lieutenant Commander Ring was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Korea Desk Officer and Assistant to the Director East Asia and Pacific Region. In July 1968, Lieutenant Commander Ring attended the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA before reporting in January 1969 to the Fleet Training Center Norfolk for prospective executive officer pipeline training. In June 1969, Lieutenant Commander Ring reported as the executive officer of guide missile destroyer leader Harry E. Yarnell (DLG-17, later CG-17) for trials after a major upgrade in Bath, Maine, followed by a UNITAS exercise cruise circumnavigating South America as the flagship of Commander, South Atlantic Force. He was promoted to commander in September 1969.
In November 1970, Commander Ring was assigned as Special Assistant to the Defense Advisor to the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and as Deputy Director, Defense Plans Division in Brussels, Belgium. Commander Ring was promoted to captain in July 1974. He was assigned to the Headquarters of the Third Naval District as a Military Fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. In June 1975, he reported to the office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) as the director of the CNO Executive Panel. In November 1977, Captain Ring assumed command of Navy Recruiting Area Eight, covering the Western United States. In May 1979, Captain Ring reported as Deputy Commander, Navy Recruiting Command in Washington D.C. Beginning in March 1981, Captain Ring served as the executive assistant and senior aide to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans and Policy (OP-06).
In May 1982, Captain Ring was designated a rear admiral (lower half) for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank and was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Director East Asia and Pacific Region. He was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) on 1 July 1983. In July 1984, Rear Admiral Ring reported to Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, as the Director of Plans and Policy. He was selected for promotion to rear admiral (upper half) in April 1985 and subsequently promoted on 1 January 1986. Rear Admiral Ring retired on 1 October 1987.
During his career, Rear Admiral Ring received multiple awards for his service including: the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (four awards), Meritorious Service Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (with three bronze stars), Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Commendation (Civil Action), and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
After retiring from active duty, Rear Admiral Ring lived on the north shore of Oahu where he was active in serving his community and protecting the area from overdevelopment.
Stew Ring began his career in the unglamorous and underappreciated minesweeper community (even though mines are the most cost-effective form of naval warfare and since World War II far more U.S. Navy ships have been sunk or severely damaged by mines than any other cause). He superbly led his minesweeper through combat operations in Vietnam in what turned out to be his last at-sea command. Off the traditional beaten path to flag rank, he nevertheless excelled in the domain of politico-military plans and policy, with unique expertise in the Far East (a foreign area officer before the title existed). His expertise proved to be especially valued at senior levels of the U.S. Pacific Command, the Office of the CNO and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, resulting in repeat tours in that arena. He also excelled in the realm of recruiting at a time (the late 1970s) when recruiting was difficult, leading his command to a Meritorious Unit Commendation. Whether at sea or ashore, long hours and sacrifice were the order of the day. Stew served our Navy and nation with dedication and distinction, and the Navy will not forget.