Luftwaffe Pilot Spared B-17 Pilot’s Life
In 1943 his B-17, called ‘Ye Old Pub’, was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and the bomber was flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton (England).
After flying over a German airfield, a German pilot named Franz Stigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17.
When he got near the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he ‘had never seen a plane in such a bad state‘. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was all “over the top” of the fuselage. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere.
2nd second lieutenant U.S. Army Air Forces. (Photo: P. Johnson)
Luftwaffe pilot during WWII. (Photo: P. Johnson)
Despite having ammunition to shoot the bomber down, instead Franz flew along side of the B-17 and looked over at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane. Having the awareness that the bomber pilot had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane to and slightly over the North Sea, and towards England.
The German Luftwaffe pilot then saluted Charlie Brown and banked away … back towards his own base in Europe.
When Franz Stigler returned to his base, he told his Luftwaffe Commanding Officer that the B-17 bomber had been shot down over the sea…. and never told the real story to anybody.
When Charlie Brown and the remainder of his crew told everything at their de-briefing session…. they were ordered never to talk about it.
Charlie Brown (standing)
& Franz Stigler (Photo:P.Johnson)
More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved the crew. After years of research, Franz was found. He had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions. They met in the USA at a 379th. Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who are alive now – all because Franz never fired his guns that day. >>Source
[NOTE: Franz Stigler emigrated to Canada in 1953 where he took up residence in VANCOUVER, British Columbia.]
UPDATE: Franz Stigler (92 yrs. old) DIED on March 22, 2008 in British Columbia, Canada.
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