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    WWII POW, B24 bombardier recalls experiences for Fla. unit

    September 24, 2009

    Cadet Senior Master Sgt/ Judah Brown tape-records retired Air Force Lt. Irwin Stovroff as he speaks to the Boca Raton Composite Squadron.

    1st Lt. Jackie Zarrilli
    Public Affairs Officer
    Cadet Programs
    Florida Wing

    FLORIDA -- Boca Raton Composite Squadron members heard a firsthand account recently of being shot down over Germany and taken prisoner during World War II.

    Those memories came from retired Air Force Lt. Irwin Stovroff, who served during the war as B24 bombardier with the Army Air Corps and eventually was recognized with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism.

    The topic was particularly fitting for the Boca Raton cadets, who are doing research on America’s heroes for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriot Pen and Voice of Democracy 2009 essay contests.

    Stovroff told his listeners about his experiences living on the edge, as almost 60 percent of allied aircraft did not return from their missions. He recalled being shot down on his 35th mission and taken prisoner by German troops.

    He also dramatically described:
    The fear he felt as he threw away his dog tags, which identified him as Jewish.
    The intense interrogation he endured as the enemy tried to extract information from him and his fellow American officers.
    The irony he experienced upon learning that the German commander was a former neighbor from Buffalo, N.Y. 

    Taken prisoner when he was not much older than the cadets in the audience, Stovroff directed his remarks to his young listeners as he assured them that the way of life, freedoms and democracy they all enjoy is because of the sacrifices of many.
    “It is amazing that he and all his entire aircrew were able to bail out and survive,” the squadron’s first sergeant, Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Judah Brown, said afterward as he studied the picture of Stovroff’s smoking B24 plummeting to the ground over enemy territory. .

    Stovroff continues to give back to his country and his fellow veterans as he raises money for service dogs for disabled soldiers who have been wounded in the War on Terrorism. He founded the nonprofit foundation, Veterans Helping Today’s Returning Heroes, to raise money to provide such veterans with dogs that will enable them to return to become self-reliant, whether they are visually impaired or have other special needs.

    The former POW, who brought with him service dogs Cash and Jennie, doesn’t consider himself a hero. Rather, he applies that description to the injured young men and women who have the courage to continue to fight everyday to overcome their disabilities and live with dignity. 

    All the cadets volunteered to help at the next foundation event.


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