Orphan, war hero and family man lives on at 94

Posted on Dec 2, 2015

Name: Irv Refkin
Code Name: Unknown

Born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1921, Irv Refkin in considered one of the most prolific agents to have taken part in the war effort. Orphaned at the age of four after his parents were tragically killed in a car accident, he spent ten years under the care of German nuns.

By the time he was 14, and with the Great Depression in full swing, he left the orphanage to make his own way — with only three dollars and change to his name. This experience would help him cultivate the grit and resourcefulness to become one of the OSS’s most successful agents.

At 19, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and was then sent to Canada for explosives training. However, a Canadian officer who disliked Refkin had him put on a plane bound for the United Kingdom, with no papers and only the shirt on his back. The assumption upon landing, was that Refkin was Canadian, and before the mix-up was sorted out, he had deployed on three missions in France with British special operations teams as a demolitions expert.

Later on in the war, he was tasked with vital courier operations, delivering sensitive information to Allied leaders throughout Europe and North Africa. He was also responsible for smuggling weapons and equipment to the French Resistance in Paris.

Perhaps most impressively though, Irv Refkin went on several missions directly into Nazi Germany. Disguised as a German infantryman, he was tasked with eliminating key enemy officers.

Now married with children and living in the San Diego area, Irv is currently 94 years old and is the president of the Veterans Business Transformation Group, one of many businesses he’s built. He was given the Distinguished Service Award for his efforts by The OSS Society in 2014.

Canadian Media Fund