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  1. #1
    Sinner's Swing! Jesus H Christ's Avatar
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    Default A Great WWII Story... When A Warrior Decided To Not Pull The Trigger



    Incredible air encounter between German and American pilot Dec 20 -1943
    * Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident Air combat summary Date20 December 1943 Summary Bomber v Fighter Dog fight Site Over German-occupied Europe Total injuries (non-fatal)9 (aboard B-17)Total fatalities1 (B-17 tail gunner)Total survivors 9First aircraft TypeB-17 Flying Fortress Operator United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)Flight origin RAF Kimbolton Destination Bremen, GermanyCrew10Fatalities1Second aircraft Type Messerschmitt Bf 109OperatorLuftwaffeCrew1Survivors1Franz StiglerBorn21 August 1915
    Regensburg, Germany Died22 March 2008 (aged 92)
    Surrey, B.C., Canada Allegiance Nazi Germany Service/branch Luftwaffe Years of service1939–1945 Rank Oberleutnant Unit JG 27 Battles/wars

    World War II

    North African campaign Channel Front (WIA Defence of the Reich (WIA Charles Brown Nickname(s)Charlie Born15 April 1922
    Weston, West Virginia, USADied25 November 2008 (aged 86)
    Miami, Florida, USA Buried at Woodlawn Park Cemetery, Miami Allegiance United States Service/branch United States Army (1939-1947)
    United States Air Force(1947-1965)Years of service1939–1965RankLieutenant ColonelUnit527th Bombardment Squadron of the 379th Bomber Group (Heavy) (8th Air Force)Battles/warsWorld War II

    The Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident occurred on 20 December 1943, when, after a successful bomb run on Bremen, Charles 'Charlie' Brown's B-17 Flying Fortress (named "Ye Olde Pub") was severely damaged by German fighters. Luftwaffe pilot and ace Franz Stigler was ordered to shoot down the crippled bomber, but instead, for humanitarian reasons, decided to allow the crew to fly back to their airfield in England.[1]The two pilots met each other 40 years later after an extensive search by Charlie Brown and the friendship that the two developed lasted until their deaths several months apart.[2]

    Pilots

    2nd Lt. Charlie Brown ("a farm boy from Weston, West Virginia", in his own words) was a B-17F pilot with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)'s 379th Bomber Group stationed at RAF Kimbolton in England.[3]Franz Stigler (a former airline pilot from Bavaria) was a veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot attached to Jagdgeschwader 27 and at the time had 22 victories to his name and would be eligible for the coveted Knight's Cross with one more downed enemy aircraft.[1]

    Bremen mission

    The mission was the Ye Olde Pub crew's first, and targeted the Focke-Wulf aircraft production facility in Bremen.

    Bomb run

    Brown's B-17 began its 10-minute bomb run at 27,300 ft (8,300 m) with an outside air temperature of −60 °C (−76 °F). Before the bomber released its bomb load, accurate anti-aircraft flak shattered the Plexiglas nose, knocked out the number two engine and further damaged the number four engine which was already in questionable condition and had to be throttled back to prevent over speeding. The damage slowed the bomber and Brown was unable to remain with his formation and fell back as a straggler – a position from which he would come under sustained enemy attacks.[4]

    Attacks by fighters

    Brown's straggling B-17 was now attacked by over a dozen enemy fighters (a mixture of Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s) for over 10 minutes. Further damage was sustained including the number three engine which would produce only half power (meaning the aircraft had at best 40% of its total rated power available). The bomber's internal oxygen, hydraulic and electrical systems were also damaged and with the bomber losing half of its rudder and its port (left side) elevator. The bomber's only remaining defensive armament were the two dorsal turret guns and one of three forward-firing nose guns (from eleven available). Most of the crew were now wounded (the tail gunner had been killed) and Brown was wounded in his right shoulder.

    Lacking oxygen, Brown lost consciousness, but came around to find the bomber in a dive at 5,000 ft (1,500 m). He regained the controls and pulled the bomber out of the dive at 1,000 ft (300 m)-2,000 ft (610 m) and began the long flight home in the shattered bomber.

    Franz Stigler

    Brown's damaged bomber was spotted by Germans on the ground, including Franz Stigler, who was refueling and rearming at an airfield. He soon took off in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 (which had a .50 BMG slug embedded in the radiator which risked the engine overheating) and quickly caught up with Brown's plane. Through the damaged bomber's airframe Stigler was clearly able to see the injured and incapacitated crew. To the American pilot's surprise, Stigler did not open fire on the crippled bomber. Remembering the words of one of his commanding officers from Jagdgeschwader 27, Gustav Rödel, during his time fighting in North Africa, “You are fighter pilots first, last, always. If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I'll shoot you myself." Stigler later commented, "To me, it was just like they were in a parachute. I saw them and I couldn't shoot them down."

    Twice, Stigler tried to get Brown to land his plane at a German airfield and surrender or divert to nearby neutral Sweden where he and his crew would receive medical treatment but be interned and sit out the remainder of the war. Brown and the crew of the B-17 didn't understand what Stigler was trying to mouth and gesture to them and so flew on. Stigler later told Brown he was trying to get them to fly to Sweden. Stigler then flew near Brown's plane in a formation on the bombers port side wing as Stigler knew the German anti aircraft units would recognize a German plane and not fire upon it or the formation, thus escorted the damaged B-17 over the coast until they reached open water, where he departed with a salute.[4]

    Landing

    Brown managed to fly the 250 mi (400 km) across the North Sea and land his plane a tRAF Seething, home of the 448th Bomb Group and at the after-flight debriefing informed his officers about how a German pilot had let him go. He was told not to repeat this to the rest of the unit so as not to build any positive sentiment about enemy pilots. Brown commented, "Someone decided you can't be human and be flying in a German cockpit." Stigler said nothing of the incident to his commanding officers, knowing that a German pilot who spared the enemy while in combat risked execution....
    "The less I needed, the better I felt." ~ Charles Bukowski.

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  3. #2
    Good Enough
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    Great story. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. #3
    Atomic Punk ziggysmalls's Avatar
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    Cool story.

    However a British soldier could have shot Adolf Hitler in WW1 but chose not to. Not so much of a happy ending on that one

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  6. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ziggysmalls View Post
    Cool story.

    However a British soldier could have shot Adolf Hitler in WW1 but chose not to. Not so much of a happy ending on that one
    Yes, that is one of the bigger "what could have been" moments in recorded history.

  7. #5
    Atomic Punk bsbll4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PCh5150 View Post
    Yes, that is one of the bigger "what could have been" moments in recorded history.
    Another one was when a British soldier had a Colony officer in his sights during the American Revolution. The officer's back was turned, so the British soldier thought better of shooting a man in his back from a distance and let him live.

    He found out the next day that the officer in his sights was George Washington.
    CNN may think my opinion matters, but you shouldn't.

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