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D-Day Veteran Returns to
Normandy with Tauck

Posted by Amy Clyde on 11/13/2014
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Europe, River Cruise, D-Day, Jewish, Normandy, Veteran, WWII, World War 2

irwin stovroff applause 

It was a great honour to have special guest D-Day veteran Lieutenant Irwin Stovroff sail with us to Normandy on Rendezvous on the Seine this summer; meeting him and hearing about his experiences was by far the highlight of the trip for guests and our team alike. The day before we arrived at the D-Day beaches, Irwin told the group his gripping story and was greeted with a heartfelt standing ovation as well as an outpouring of thanks. And visiting the beaches after meeting Irwin was unforgettable.

b-24D-Day was one of young Irwin Stovroff’s first missions as a U.S. Army Air Force B-24 bombadier based in England. Later, on his 35th mission, which was to have been his final one, he was shot down over Nazi-occupied France near Caen. As soon as his parachute landed, he removed his dog tags, which identified him as Jewish. Once captured, he thought all was lost when, in a terrifying coincidence, he was recognized by his Nazi interrogator who knew he was Jewish; Irwin had been the newspaper boy of the man’s family in Buffalo, NY. (The man had subsequently left the United States to be with his grandmother in Germany.) But to Irwin’s great surprise, the interrogator wanted to help him – and effectively saved Irwin’s life by putting a question mark on his record in the space used to indicate religion.

Under Allied bombing and strafing, Irwin was transported by railroad car to the prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft I, in Germany, where he was held until the camp was liberated by the Russians. He then volunteered to help liberate those still living in the infamous concentration camp Ravensbrück. For his service Irwin was awarded the Air Medal, the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the medal of the French Order of the Legion of Honour.

omaha beachAfter he retired at age 75, Irwin founded the nonprofit organization Vets Helping Heroes, dedicated to providing assistance dogs for active duty military and retired veterans who are recovering from physical and psychological challenges as a result of their service. Today at 91, Irwin remains president of Vets Helping Heroes – and is the subject of a new book, An Extraordinary Life… Gone to the Dogs.

Many guests who met Irwin onboard our Seine river cruise were inspired to support Vets Helping Heroes. And getting to know a true hero before travelling to Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Arromanches made the 70th anniversary of D-Day all the more meaningful for everyone. We will always be grateful.
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