Monday, May 18, 2009

Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called 'Ye Old Pub' and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.

After flying the B-17 over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Steigler 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.

Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane.

Aware that they 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 towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Europe. When Franz landed he told the CO that the plane had been shot down over the sea, and never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew told all at their briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it.

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.

When asked why he didn’t shoot them down, Stigler later said, “I didn’t have the heart to finish those brave men. I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do that. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute.”

Both men died in 2008.


BF-109 pilot Franz Stigler

B-17 pilot Charlie Brown


*A special thank you to my friend, K for sharing this great story with me!

18 comments:

Megryansmom said...

Wow I got spingles from that story.

Have a great Monday!

Sarge Charlie said...

what a great way to start my day, thank you for this story, do not be suprised if you find it republished someday.

Julie said...

Great story.

How was your weekend with your baby?

Mike Golch said...

I read this story before,it still brings tears to my eyes.I was wonder what happend to Charlie Bron and Franz Stigler.God Lbess both these gentilmen.

coffeypot said...

There a several stories of combat harden warriors from both sides showing compassion for an enemy combatant in trouble. Men who have seen their friends and fellow soldiers die in horrible was will pause for some unknown reason that saves the life or lives of others downrange from their guns. It could be awe, it could be out of respect for what the other is doing or how they are doing it, but I think that it is more of a plan of God’s that causes this to happen. Thanks for sharing this story of two brave men.

Hammer said...

Back when our enemies values were closer to our own.

Thanks for posting this.

AirmanMom said...

megryansmom...it is an amazing story! Thanks for taking the time to read!

AirmanMom said...

starge... PLEASE make sure many people read this story!!!!
Thanks!

AirmanMom said...

julie...thanks! My weekend was too short! I miss my son!

AirmanMom said...

mike...Amen!

AirmanMom said...

coffeypot...I am so glad you appreciate these words! I, too was truly moved, when I read this story.

AirmanMom said...

hammer...interesting point, thanks!

Flag Gazer said...

Wonderful stories come from amazing tribulations - thank you for finding this and sharing.

Nina Knox said...

I wish there were more people in the world like these two men, then there would be no more wars. Great story.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

I fall in love every time you tell a story like this AM. I love all your stories and posts but when you tell one about the heart of a soldier I thank God that people like this man represent America!!
You are a blessing girl :)

Steady On
Reggie Girl

AirmanMom said...

flag gazer...I thank you for taking the time to read of these amazing men!

AirmanMom said...

nina...thanks for stopping by!

AirmanMom said...

rg...it is too easy to focus on what is 'wrong' these days. Once we look a little deeper, it is so easy to see what is 'right' with our world!