Did you know?

The Patriot Post is funded 100% by its readers, avoiding the influence advertisers and special interest groups impose on other publications. Help us stay front and center in the fight for Liberty and support the 2021 Year-End Campaign.

Paul Kengor / May 30, 2016

Seven, Eight … Nine Brothers in World War II

Back during Memorial Day 2014, I wrote a piece on five brothers who served in World War II. I was blown-away impressed by the Bailey boys, from my neck of the woods in Western Pennsylvania, and still am. Imagine my surprise when a reader responded with a package of clippings informing me of his family, which had *seven* brothers in the war. Yes, seven. His name is Ted, and his parents were Stella and Walter Pietkiewicz, Polish immigrants in Pittsburgh.

Back during Memorial Day 2014, I wrote a piece on five brothers who served in World War II. I was impressed by the Bailey boys, from my neck of the woods in Western Pennsylvania, and still am. Imagine my surprise when a reader responded with a package of clippings informing me of his family, which had seven brothers in the war. Yes, seven. His name is Ted, and his parents were Stella and Walter Pietkiewicz, Polish immigrants in Pittsburgh.

I wrote up that story, thinking no family could out-do the Pietkiewicz crew. I soon learned I was wrong.

That article led to a bunch of mail composed by computers and typewriters alike. One was sent by Stanley Freedman reporting the seven sons of Fanny Greco. They lived in Providence, Rhode Island. All served in World War II.

Another came from Tina Link of Delphos, Ohio, who told me of her maternal grandmother, “Mrs. John Bohnlein,” as the attached September 1945 newspaper clip identified this selfless mother, who likewise lent seven sons to the cause.

Then followed an email from Shayne Ghere informing me of Roy and Lillie Ghere. They parented 17 children in tiny Arcola, Illinois. Seven of their boys served in World War II.

All of this prompted me to dig a bit, and I thus learned of still other cases, such as the seven Powell brothers of Hillview, Illinois.

So, there it was. The bar was set. Seven brothers in World War II must be the record, right? No.

James Yetzer of St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania threw me for a loop, letting me know that his mother gave birth to 18 children, 10 of which served their country, two of them in Korea and eight in World War II. Yes, eight brothers in World War II. James, who fought in Korea, is the last surviving member of his family.

Not to be outdone, Stan Zabka, a 91-year-old retired songwriter living in Grass Valley, California, mailed me his story. Stan is quite accomplished, with film credits to his name and even an appearance on the Johnny Carson show (click here to watch), for which he was a producer. (He has a fun memoir on his life in music, television, film, and the war.) Stan told me of the eight boys in his family that served in World War II, including himself. Of his parents’ 12 children, Stan and two brothers remain.

Alas, one of these enthusiastic correspondents told me that the Guinness Book of World Records lists the most boys from one family in the war as nine — a family from London.

But alas, the Ripkowski family would have a beef with the folks at Guinness.

One descendant of this prolific group, Robert Ripkowski, emailed to inform me of his incredible family. Stash and Mattie were hardworking Polish-Americans who settled in New Waverly, Texas, where they planted the 200-acre land and raised 16 children. Twelve of those children were boys, nine of which — yes, nine — served in World War II. And all came home.

None of the Ripkowski boys had any regrets. “We did it to serve our country,” said Mike. Franklin added: “I wish every person in America would go into the military for one year. It would make a better person out of all of them.”

What to make of all these families who contributed so many sons to this noble cause? It’s a remarkable phenomenon that hasn’t been given due attention. If you ask people about a bunch of brothers in World War II, they might know about the famous Sullivans, the tragic source of the classic film, “The Fighting Sullivans.” All five of these farmboys from Waterloo, Iowa, died together when their ship was torpedoed in November 1942. (One of Stan Zabka’s seven brothers, ironically, had the task of drafting the letter informing the Sullivan parents that their five boys had been lost at sea, the very letter to which FDR affixed his signature.)

Or, modern audiences know of Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” about a search led by actor Tom Hanks and team for James Ryan, whose three brothers were killed in combat.

Mercifully, none of the families I’ve discussed here lost three boys in the war. Nonetheless, their contribution was obviously significant. It is our task today to honor them. As Shayne Ghere, descendant of the 17 children (now all deceased) of Roy and Lillie Ghere of Arcola told me, “it’s now up to the grandchildren to keep up the values and legacy they left us.”

It is indeed. And we can do that first and foremost by not ruining the great country they were willing to give their lives for.

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2021 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.