(Note: “Somebody” has tampered with the original-sized font with what now displays as tiny, black print.)
A few days before Christmas in 1943, Charlie Brown’s B-17, (called ‘Ye Old Pub’) was in a terrible state after having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and the bomber was flying deeper over enemy territory … instead of heading back to Kimbolton (England).
After unknowingly flying over the German airfield, a German Luftwaffe pilot named Franz Stigler … was ordered to take off and shoot down the enemy B-17 bomber.
When nearing the B-17, Stigler 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 enough ammunition to bring the bomber down, Franz instead, flew his Luftwaffe plane along-side of the badly damaged B-17 and then looked over at Charlie Brown, the bomber pilot.
Brown looked scared and was struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained bomber airplane. Having the awareness that the American bomber pilot had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn around at 180 degrees. Franz then began to escort and guide the wayward American pilot and his the stricken plane back towards the right direction of the North Sea.
The German Luftwaffe pilot then saluted Charlie Brown and banked away … back towards his own Luftwaffe base in Europe.
When Franz Stigler returned to his base, he told his Luftwaffe Commanding Officer an untruth … that the B-17 bomber had been “shot down over the sea”…. and who kept the real truth to himself by having never telling the real story to anybody.
When Charlie Brown and the remainder of his crew landed back in England, they told everything at what happened in their de-briefing session…. but were ordered never to talk about this incident.
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 U.S. at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who are alive now – all because Franz never fired his guns that day. >>Source
[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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