Written by John Stemple and originally posted on 20thCenturyAviationMagazine.com
Irwin Stovroff, from Buffalo, New York, arrived in England during 1944 and one of his first operational missions took place on D-Day. Mr. Stovroff, born of Russian parents from Siberia, related to writer Lisa Weiser accounts of wartime life in Scotland and England and the daily encounters with death faced by the British, British Commonwealth and American personnel posted to RAF Shipdham in East Anglia.
Months later, he confided, the U.S. Army Air Force Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber “The Passion Pit” on which Irwin Stovroff served as bombardier met its death as a result of flak. The 20-year-old second lieutenant was on his 35th and final required bombing mission. Irwin parachuted to earth, braving small arms fire as he descended, and landed on Nazi-occupied soil. Once on the ground Irwin removed his Dog Tags, which were stamped with the letter “H” (meaning “Hebrew”/Jew) and disposed of them to hide his religious affiliation.
Readers subsequently learn of Stovroff’s frightening experiences at the hands of suspicious and intimidating Luftwaffe (Nazi Germany’s air force) interrogators, one of whom deduced Irwin’s ethnicity while the unfortunate airman was being held at Dulag Luft. Next come details of Mr. Stovroff’s inhumane transport by railroad car to Stalag Luft I, during which he was nearly killed by Allied aircraft as a result of their bombing and strafing. At that time, Weiser quotes Irwin as saying, “Prayers were rattled off in many religions. . . .”
Irwin Stovroff additionally recalls his interactions with fellow prisoners and the legendary American ace Colonel “Hub” Zemke, his commanding officer while interred. Irwin also described the final days of the war and liberation by Soviet soldiers, his volunteering to liberate those still living inside the infamous Ravensbrück concentration camp and eventual evacuation to “Camp Lucky Strike” in France via a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Additionally, within the pages of Weiser’s work one learns about Mr. Stovroff’s sampling of foreign cultures, mores and women.
Mr. Irwin Stovroff was awarded the Air Medal, the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Having personally suffered, it is understandable that he eventually founded the nonprofit “Vets Helping Heroes” in Greenacres, Florida. According to the website, the organization is “dedicated to providing assistance dogs for active duty military and retired veterans recovering from the physical and psychological challenges they suffered as a result of their service to our country.” Ms. Weiser states the following about Irwin Stovroff: “Now after a lifetime of giving back to his country, he is still liberating other men trapped from disabilities with the service of dogs.”
An Extraordinary Life . . . Gone to the Dogs is self-published by Lisa A. Weiser. Profits from sales benefit Vets Helping Heroes. This review is based upon the first edition, but a revised and improved version is now available. Copies may be purchased by contacting L.A. Weiser at Her Website (Below).