Held In: WETZLER, FRANKFORT, GERMANY – STALAG LUFT IV POLAND
Long Interned: 340 days
Received: PURPLE HEART, ETO RIBBON WITH ONE BRONZE STAR, AIR MEDAL WITH 3 OAK LEAF CLUSTERS, GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL AND POW MEDAL
Job: LEFT WAIST GUNNER
after War: RESUMED FARMING WITH MY DAD
Irwin was drafted into the service on Jan. 22, 1943, with basic training at St. Petersburg FL; Field Armament School at Lowery Field, Denver CO; Gunnery School at Harlingen, TX; crew flight training at Ephrata, WA. Went overseas Jan. 18, 1944, to Gladton Airfield in England, with the 8th AAF 457th BG 749th BS. On the 23rd mission to Dessau, Germany, while on the bomb run over the target, the B-17 Bomber named “Black Puff Polly” was attacked by fighter planes and knocked out of formation with plane badly damaged. Flew alone back as far as Bremen, Germany, and was hit in radio room by flack killing the radio operator. Nine crewmen bailed out and were taken prisoners on May 28, 1944. Was sent to an interrogation center at Wetzler, Frankfort Germany, and then a long miserable boxcar ride to Stalag Luft IV in Northern Poland. On Feb. 6, 1945, the Russian Army was moving close to Stalag Luft IV. We left camp on a forced march to the west and spent the next 85 days on the “Black Death March” covering about 500 miles. The winter of 1944 and 1945 was a cold and snowy winter. Many of the POWs had frozen and frostbitten feet, and suffered from malnutrition. We were liberated by the British Army on May 2, 1945. Returning home in June on a rest leave, Irwin married Alberna Wilkins on Aug. 11, 1945, whom he had been engaged to before going overseas to England. Was discharged from the service on Oct. 31, 1945,and returned to the family farm, and is still helping his son on the farm as of Dec. 11, 2005, when this biography was written.