Cosmic Cafe & Outer Space Art Gallery
Cosmic Debris
Cosmic Cafe News
Dead Man's Tale
Humanoid Gallery
Tales of TravelRead-Aloud Tales
Mortality Tales
Graffiti LoungeGalaxy Gift Shop
Space Art Gallery

Humanoid Gallery
Irwin Stovroff: The Lucky Bombardier

Story by Gary Greenberg
Photo by Mike Price
Courtesy of Boca Raton Magazine

September 2001--Irwin Stovroff has a collection of war mementos in the office of his Boca Raton home – pictures, documents, medals – but none more striking than a framed photograph of his glass-nosed bomber being shot down behind enemy lines. 

    Snapped by a crew member of another plane, the picture shows Stovroff’s B-24 Liberator trailing smoke from its two starboard engines as it heads into a nosedive, while far below, the tiny white dots of ten parachutes flutter to earth. 

    “As I floated down, I thought, ‘What the hell is going to happen to me now?’” recalls the former bombardier. “We landed right in the German front lines. 

    “Being Jewish, I threw my dog tags away immediately, a good thing because we were all rounded up in no time. They marched us into a cemetery, but the commanding officer wouldn’t let them shoot us. Why? I still don’t know.” 

    Instead, they were taken to an interrogation center, held in isolation and grilled one-by-one. 

    “After a few days, this SS officer comes in and says he knows everything about me: who my father is and mother’s maiden name, the street where I live, my elementary school, the girl I dated in high school…” Stovroff says. “I asked how he knew so much and he replied, ‘I once lived a few blocks away from you. You used to be my paperboy. I’ll do what I can to help you.’” 

    Stovroff’s former neighbor in Buffalo, N.Y., had moved back to Germany
before the war broke out. And he might have saved his old paperboy’s life by putting a question mark next to Stovroff’s identification as a Jew on his prisoner of war ID document. 

    Instead of a concentration camp, Lieutenant Stovroff wound up at a German stalag for officers, still no picnic.

    “We would have starved if not for the American Red Cross,” he notes.

    He spent about a year there before being liberated by Russian Cossacks, who rode into the prison camp on horseback with rifles blazing. 

    Stovroff has a lot of stories, and he tells them with enthusiasm, humor and just a touch of pathos – like the time his squadron was attacked by newfangled German jets over the Baltic Sea. 

    “These things without props came out of nowhere and shot down fifteen of our planes,” he says, shaking his head. “No one had ever seen anything like it. One hundred and fifty men...all lost. 

    “After we completed our mission, I decided that I wasn’t going back up no matter what they did to me. But they gave us a couple days off and we went to London and got drunk and chased girls. By the time the two days were up, we came back saying, ‘Ah, what the heck.’” 

    Stovroff went on to fly thirty-five missions, ironically being shot down on the one that was scheduled to be his last. 

    “We had our bags packed to go home and were envisioning parades,” he now says with a chuckle. “Instead we ended up in a prison camp.” 

     After his long overdue return home, Stovroff married, had three kids and spent forty years working for Thomasville Furniture, advancing to international sales manager. The outgoing, energetic, natural-born salesman was still going strong at 75 when, much to his chagrin, the company retired him. 

    Now in his 80s, Stovroff occupies a lot of his time helping those who can’t help themselves as the national service officer for American Ex-Prisoners of War. He volunteers three times a week at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in West Palm Beach, helping ex-POWs fill out paperwork for pension, medical care and other benefits. 

    Last year, he was belatedly awarded a prestigious Distinguished Flying
Cross, which was pinned on his chest by a fellow ex-POW, Senator John McCain. Like a lot of World War II vets, Irwin Stovroff says his military experience gave him a perspective of life that has helped him succeed as a civilian. 

    “After being a POW, you figure what worse can happen?” he says. “It changes your whole attitude. No matter what happens, you’ve already hit bottom. There’s no place to go but up.”

Next: Ralph Shear: Invincible Infantryman
Humanoid Gallery
Reading Room
Outer Space Art Gallery


Eat to live with Isagenix, the food of the future.
Cleanse your body, lose weight and feel great!