Stash and Mattie Olbrych Ripkowski were 1st generation Americans, children of two of the very early Polish immigrant families that settled in New Waverly. Large families were not unusual in these Polish farming communities and because of demographics and patriotism, a high percentage of the armed forces came from the Southern and Eastern European immigrant families that came to this country in the late 19th and early part of the 20th century. Over a million people in the armed forces during World War II could claim their heritage as Polish- American, and because large families were common, having five or six in the military was not unusual. However, the record for our country when it comes to family members in the service is held by the family of Stash and Mattie Ripkowski.
Beginning with World War II, Mattie and Stash Ripkowski watched their 12 sons leave home to join the Armed Forces. This patriotic exodus spanned two wars and more than a decade. One by one, the brothers—Bernie, Felix, Alex, August, Leon, Bill, Herman, Franklin, John, Mike, Stanley and Raymond—raised their hands and promised to defend this nation against all enemies.
Their service records read something like a history of the military. Felix fought in Africa, Italy, Sicily and France. August served aboard the USS Reno in the Pacific. Raymond’s plane crashed in New Guinea after a bombing run, but he somehow managed to survive. Bernie was in the Aleutians and Alaska with the Army. Alex served in the Army in Europe and Leon’s Army tour took him from Africa to England. Bill island-hopped across the Pacific with the Army and Herman was in the Army in Germany. Franklin started out with the Merchant Marine, then joined the Army. James was part of the Army’s German occupation and Mike was on Okinawa with the Air Force. Stanley served in the Army, then in the Guard.
The Ripkowskis time of service includes World War II through the Korean War.