ABOVE, GIB Stoeberl, left, and Chris Wiegand look through a stack of stories about Ripon residents and World War II they collected from issues of the Ripon Weekly Press and Ripon Commonwealth.     Ian Stepleton photo
ABOVE, GIB Stoeberl, left, and Chris Wiegand look through a stack of stories about Ripon residents and World War II they collected from issues of the Ripon Weekly Press and Ripon Commonwealth. Ian Stepleton photo

     DURING World War II, Americans’ window into the conflict was through the stories they read in newspapers.

     In Ripon, this included tales not just from the front, but from the fingers of soldiers themselves.

     When not fighting the Nazis, local boys were invited to pen letters for a weekly column in the Ripon Commonwealth called “From the Fighting Front.”

     And, boy, what stories some of them told.

     “[Late Riponite] Porky Splitt’s claim to fame is, he’s the only private or corporal, or something like that, [who] spilled coffee all over Gen. Eisenhower and still [lived to talk about it],” said Gib Stoeberl, who volunteers at the Ripon Historical Society. “Porky was a radio operator in a B-17, and they were flying Eisenhower from one place to another. Porky opened up his Thermos and poured himself a cup of coffee. He was going to drink it, and he noticed the general looking at him.

     “He said, ‘Sir, would you care for a cup of coffee?’ ‘Oh, that would just be great, private,’ [Eisenhower said]. Just as he went to hand it to him, they hit an air pocket and (whooshing sound) — all over Gen. Eisenhower.

     “It’s stories like this that you won’t get in the history books.” ...

     To read the entire column, see the Oct. 10, 2019 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.