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THIS IS AN AMAZING STORY ABOUT WHEN TIMES WERE DIFFERENT.
Look carefully at the B-17 & note how shot up it is – one engine dead, tail, horizontal stabilizer & nose shot up. It was ready to fall out of the sky.
Now read the story below. I think you’ll be surprised.
Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot w/the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called ‘Ye Old Pub’ & was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak & fighters. The compass was damaged & 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 & 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 & rear section was severely damaged, & the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was all over the top of the fuselage. The nose was smashed & there were holes everywhere.
Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 & looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared & struggling to control his damaged & blood-stained plane.
BF-109 pilot Franz Stigler & B-17 pilot Charlie Brown
Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted & guided the stricken plane to, & slightly over, the North Sea towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown & turned away, back to Europe. When Franz landed he told the CO that the plane had been shot down over the sea, & never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown & 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 U.S. at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together w/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 & 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.