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WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by macrusk, May 12, 2008.

  1. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    Franz Stigler's death in Surrey, B.C., received little notice in the local press, but friends knew a remarkable story about the man -- he had been a decorated German fighter pilot who saved the lives of a U.S. bomber crew.

    CTV.ca News Staff

    [​IMG]
    Franz Stigler had been a decorated German fighter pilot who saved the lives of a U.S. bomber crew.


    Stigler began his career as a German pilot at age 12, going on to make 28 allied kills in the Second World War.

    On Dec. 20, 1943, American pilot Charles Brown was flying his first mission in his B-17 bomber. He had just dropped his bombs on a German aircraft factory when he was attacked by fighters from above and flak from below.

    "I do remember being inverted (and then) pulling up over the trees," Brown, who now lives in Miami, told CTV's W-FIVE. "At this point (we were) totally helpless."

    Brown's four-engine bomber was badly damaged. Three engines weren't working, there was hardly anything left of the tail and seven of 10 crew member were injured. Brown had a bullet fragment lodged in his shoulder.

    That's when Stigler saw the bomber overhead, trying to limp home.
    "I went after him (to) finish him off," Stigler said.

    But when Stigler got close enough to see the American bomber, he saw Brown's bleeding wounds and realized he couldn't shoot. Instead, he did something that could have seen him court marshalled and shot for dereliction of duty -- he guided the B-17 out of Germany.

    "Then he gave me a wave salute and then he left," recounted Brown.

    All but one of Brown's crew lived to fight another day. The American pilot was left wondering what happened to the German who spared his life.

    Then, in 1990, Stigler contacted him from his new home in Surrey, B.C.

    "He almost broke my ribs, he gave me a big bear hug," said Brown.

    Once sworn enemies, the men became close friends and met almost every year until Stigler's March 22 death at age 92.

    With a report from CTV's Brent Gilbert

    See video WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew : Home : News : Sympatico / MSN
     
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  2. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    This is a nice story. They happened more than you would think. Thank you for posting this, I enjoy these chevalric gestures, especially when they save lives!
     
  3. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    I agree. Despite the brutality of war, man's humanity to another man can still shine through.
     
  4. Xeorn

    Xeorn Member

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    Excellent story, but the age must of been a typo?.
     
  5. Owen

    Owen O Patron  

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  6. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    Nicely done Wessex and a fine story
     
  7. Totenkopf

    Totenkopf אוּרִיאֵל

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    Haha I watched this on C.T.V. when it had just came on!
     
  8. kingthreehead

    kingthreehead Member

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    I agree. I think a 12 year old would be even to short to operate a german aircraft.


    However nice story though.
     
  9. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    funny how this story has come back and back from the shadows and from several weeks ago visiting many WW 2 sites first done up on the armyairforces site officially some years back when it first entered the net. Franz Stigler never liked to talk about this event as he never considered himself more than just a pilot serving his country but it does show even during chivalry that Franz had a brain on his shoulders and did not obey the strict order to take down the "Terror Fliegers" at any cost. The painting depicted is actually not correct a/c wise-camo.............whatever
    Franz was a special man and was living in Vancouver, B.C. till his sad passing recently at his home. was able to interview him years ago with several books signed by him a very solid man with memory especially his time while serving in III./IV./JG 27 Afrika in the deserts and finally back in Defense of the Reich and then as T.Offizier in JV 44, and I truly believe with his honesty in the air for reason as one he received the Deutsche Kreuz in Gold

    E ~
     
  10. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Excellent story! Thanx!
     
  11. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Thank you for such a great story! I wonder how many more like stories are out there that we don't know about?

    Anyway, may Herr Stiegler Rest in Peace.
     
  12. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    I copied it from the news site without retyping...???? Yes, the age bothered me, but I never change the information I get from a source.
     
  13. TA152

    TA152 Ace

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    The Germans were big on gliders before the war started and had many glider clubs where pilots learned to fly. Perhaps he was in one of these and got his training there before the war started.

    In the US you can fly a glider at 14. :eek:
     
  14. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    If I recall correctly, flying gliders is how history's greatest scoring fighter pilot by the name of: Erich Alfred Hartmann, got his start. In case your wondering how many aerial victories he had-it is a standing record @ 352 victories with the vast majority being Russian kills.
     
  15. bigfun

    bigfun Ace

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    Very nice story! Thanks Michelle!!
     
  16. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    WWII Angel of Mercy Pilot Reunion-German Ace Let Badly Damaged B-17 Fly Home-Pilots Meet Years Later

    May 28th, 2008 Posted By Bash.
    [​IMG]
    Pictured is a drawing of the incident: The English B-17 “Ye Olde Pub” in front, and the German BF-109 in back as escort. Notice the damage on the B-17: the nose is gone, one propellor is not working, the back turret is gone, the tail section is shredded and missing, holes in the hull. Artist is Ernie Boyett.
    Found this story at a blog called Strive2Be

    Charlie Brown (a 21-year old) was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called “Ye Olde Pub” and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters while on a mission to bomb a factory in Bremen, Germany. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.
    B-17 pilot Charlie Brown.
    [​IMG]
    After flying over an enemy airfield, Charlie Brown stated that his heart sank. A 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.
    BF-109 pilot Franz Stigler.
    [​IMG]
    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.
    Brown stated that he noticed Stigler’s plane flying alongside him: It seemed amazing that the heavily damaged B-17 remained in the air. But it did, and Brown hoped to keep it flying until he reached the shores of England 250 miles away.
    Drawing of the English B-17 “Ye Olde Pub” in front, and the German BF-109 in back as escort. Notice the damage on the B-17: the nose is gone, one propellor is not working, the back turret is gone, the tail section is shredded and missing, holes in the hull.
    Still partially dazed, Lt. Brown began a slow climb with only one engine at full power. With three seriously injured aboard, he rejected bailing out or a crash landing. The alternative was a thin chance of reaching the UK. While nursing the battered bomber toward England, Brown looked out the right window and saw a BF-109 flying on his wing.
    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 commanding officer 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. Franz had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.
    They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion in 1989, together with five people who are alive now—-all because Franz never fired his guns that day.
    After the war, Brown remained in the Air Force, serving in many capacities until he retired in 1972 as a Lieutenant Colonel and settled in Miami as head of a combustion research company. But the episode of the German who refused to attack a beaten foe haunted him. He was determined to find the enemy pilot who spared him and his crew.
    He wrote numerous letters of inquiry to German military sources, with little success. Finally, a notice in a newsletter for former Luftwaffe pilots elicited a response from Franz Stigler, a German fighter ace credited with destroying over two dozen Allied planes. He, it turned out, was the angel of mercy in the skies over Germany on that fateful day just before Christmas 1943.
    It had taken 46 years, but in 1989 Brown found the mysterious man in the ME-109. Careful questioning of Stigler about details of the incident removed any doubt.
    (L-R) German Ace Franz Stigler, artist Ernie Boyett, and B-17 pilot Charlie Brown.
    [​IMG]
    Stigler, now 80 years old, had emigrated to Canada and was living near Vancouver, British Columbia. After an exchange of letters, Brown flew there for a reunion. The two men have visited each other frequently since that time and have appeared jointly before Canadian and American military audiences. The most recent appearance was at the annual Air Force Ball in Miami in September (1995), where the former foes were honored.
    In his first letter to Brown, Stigler had written: “All these years, I wondered what happened to the B-17, did she make it or not?”
    She made it, just barely. But why did the German not destroy his virtually defenseless enemy?
    “I didn’t have the heart to finish off those brave men,” Stigler later said. I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do it. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute.”

    Franz Stigler passed away on March 22, 2008.

    Pat Dollard | Young Americans | Blog Archive » WWII Angel of Mercy Pilot Reunion-German Ace Let Badly Damaged B-17 Fly Home-Pilots Meet Years Later
     
  17. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Stigler was a friend and I have several items signed by the man serving his Reichsverteidigung days in Jg 27 and alter as TO in 262 equipped JV 44
     
  18. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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  19. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Member

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    Is it just me, or does Brown look just like Eli Manning in the wartime photo?
     
  20. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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