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Old 03-09-2013, 06:19 PM   #1
bluepine
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A great true story of war.

An awesome true story of truely brave warriors.
Thought of sharing with my fellow riders for a moment of warmth, kindness, bravery, and camaraderie.
Prepare handkerchief before reading this.

The pilot glanced outside his cockpit and froze. He blinked hard and looked again, hoping it was just a mirage. But his co-pilot stared at the same horrible vision.
"My , this is a nightmare," the co-pilot said.
"He's going to destroy us," the pilot agreed.
The men were looking at a gray German Messerschmitt fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip. It was five days before Christmas 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber for the kill.
The B-17 pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission. His bomber had been shot to pieces by swarming fighters, and his plane was alone in the skies above Germany. Half his crew was wounded, and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen in icicles over the machine guns.
But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer "Pinky" Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something odd happened. The German didn't pull the trigger. He nodded at Brown instead. What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry recorded during World War II. Years later, Brown would track down his would-be executioner for a reunion that reduced both men to tears.

The German pilot who took mercy

Revenge, not honor, is what drove 2nd Lt. Franz Stigler to jump into his fighter that chilly December day in 1943.
Stigler wasn't just any fighter pilot. He was an ace. One more kill and he would win The Knight's Cross, German's highest award for valor.
Yet Stigler was driven by something deeper than glory. His older brother, August, was a fellow Luftwaffe pilot who had been killed earlier in the war. American pilots had killed Stigler's comrades and were bombing his country's cities.
Stigler was standing near his fighter on a German airbase when he heard a bomber's engine. Looking up, he saw a B-17 flying so low it looked like it was going to land. As the bomber disappeared behind some trees, Stigler tossed his cigarette aside, saluted a ground crewman and took off in pursuit.
As Stigler's fighter rose to meet the bomber, he decided to attack it from behind. He climbed behind the sputtering bomber, squinted into his gun sight and placed his hand on the trigger. He was about to fire when he hesitated. Stigler was baffled. No one in the bomber fired at him.
He looked closer at the tail gunner. He was still, his white fleece collar soaked with blood. Stigler craned his neck to examine the rest of the bomber. Its skin had been peeled away by shells, its guns knocked out. He could see men huddled inside the plane tending the wounds of other crewmen.
Then he nudged his plane alongside the bomber's wings and locked eyes with the pilot whose eyes were wide with shock and horror.

Stigler wasn't just motivated by vengeance that day. He also lived by a code. He could trace his family's ancestry to knights in 16th century Europe. He had once studied to be a priest.Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket. He eased his index finger off the trigger. He couldn't shoot. It would be murder.
A German pilot who spared the enemy, though, risked death in Germany. If someone reported him, he would be executed.
Yet Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him:
"You follow the rules of war for you -- not your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity."
Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mission. He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn't shoot down the slow-moving bomber. (The Luftwaffe had B-17s of its own, shot down and rebuilt for secret missions and training.) Stigler escorted the bomber over the North Sea and took one last look at the American pilot. Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away and returned to Germany.
"Good luck," Stigler said to himself. "You're in 's hands."

A reunion of enemies

As he watched the German fighter peel away that December day, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown wasn't thinking of the philosophical connection between enemies. He was thinking of survival.
He flew back to his base in England and landed with barely any fuel left. After his bomber came to a stop, he leaned back in his chair and put a hand over a pocket Bible he kept in his flight jacket. Then he sat in silence.
Brown flew more missions before the war ended. Life moved on. He got married, had two daughters, supervised foreign aid for the U.S. State Department during the Vietnam War and eventually retired to Florida.
Late in life, though, the encounter with the German pilot began to gnaw at him. He started having nightmares, but in his dream there would be no act of mercy. He would awaken just before his bomber crashed.
Brown took on a new mission. He had to find that German pilot. Who was he? Why did he save my life?

On January 18, 1990, Brown received a letter. He opened it and read:He scoured military archives in the U.S. and England. He attended a pilots' reunion and shared his story. He finally placed an ad in a German newsletter for former Luftwaffe pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the pilot.
"Dear Charles, All these years I wondered what happened to the B-17, did she make it or not?"
It was Stigler. He had had left Germany after the war and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1953. He became a prosperous businessman. Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer and "it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter."
Brown was so excited, though, that he couldn't wait to see Stigler. He called directory assistance for Vancouver and asked whether there was a number for a Franz Stigler. He dialed the number, and Stigler picked up.
"My , it's you!" Brown shouted as tears ran down his cheeks.
Brown had to do more. He wrote a letter to Stigler in which he said: "To say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU on behalf of my surviving crewmembers and their families appears totally inadequate."
The two pilots would meet again, but this time in the lobby of a Florida hotel.
One of Brown's friends was there to record the summer reunion. Both men looked like retired businessmen: they were plump, sporting neat ties and formal shirts. They talked about their encounter in a light, jovial tone.
The mood then changed. Someone asked Stigler what he thought about Brown. Stigler sighed and his square jaw tightened. He began to fight back tears before he said in heavily accented English:
"I love you, Charlie."
Years later, author Makos says he understands why Stigler experienced such a surge of emotions.
Stigler had lost his brother, his friends and his country. He was virtually exiled by his countrymen after the war. There were 28,000 pilots who fought for the German air force. Only 1,200 survived, Makos says.
"The war cost him everything," Makos says. "Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II for Franz. It was the one thing he could be proud of."
The meeting helped Brown as well, says his oldest daughter, Dawn Warner.

Brown's daughter says her father would worry about Stigler's health and constantly check in on him.Brown and Stigler became pals. They would take fishing trips together. They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans' reunions. Their wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became friends.
"It wasn't just for show," she says. "They really did feel for each other. They talked about once a week."
As his friendship with Stigler deepened, something else happened to her father, Warner says:
"The nightmares went away."
Brown had written a letter of thanks to Stigler, but one day, he showed the extent of his gratitude. He organized a reunion of his surviving crew members, along with their extended families. He invited Stigler as a guest of honor.
During the reunion, a video was played showing all the faces of the people that now lived -- children, grandchildren, relatives -- because of Stigler's act of chivalry. Stigler watched the film from his seat of honor.
"Everybody was crying, not just him," Warner says.
Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008. Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87. They had started off as enemies, became friends, and then something more.
Makos discovered what that was by accident while spending a night at Brown's house. He was poking through Brown's library when he came across a book on German fighter jets. Stigler had given the book to Brown. Both were country boys who loved to read about planes.
Makos opened the book and saw an inscription Stigler had written to Brown:
In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter. On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged it was a wonder that she was still flying.
The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me, as precious as my brother was.
Thanks Charlie.
Your Brother,
Franz.
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:49 PM   #2
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I read that today Mark, moving story.
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Old 03-11-2013, 05:45 AM   #3
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excellant story

whwn younger read many non-fiction books of the warriors of WWII, too bad a bygone era.

first time i've ever read about B-17s being used by the germans.
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Old 03-11-2013, 09:47 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RACER X View Post

first time i've ever read about B-17s being used by the germans.

Several were painted up (I believe) with painted on battle damage. The would fly low, and usually in a large circle, or crab to one side the entire flight. To unsuspecting Mustang pilots, they would fly down, where the b-17 itself, or the 109's would swoop in for the kill.

Little known fact..Most common reason for the B-17 engines to everheat (besides flak) was human meat in the cooling fins.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:05 AM   #5
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There are several books on the subject. This being one of them:

http://www.amazon.com/Strangers-Strange-Land-Vol-Aircraft/dp/0897471989
The Germans used them to test the capabilities of our aircraft ( as we did), but also used them as formation infiltrators, reconnaissance and even transport (captured C-47's).
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:01 AM   #6
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a great story!
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:42 AM   #7
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Deep..! Thanks for sharing. I always believe the worst enemies can become the best of friends .. Just like when we were kids. We had disagreements, we argued and then some punches and then it's all good... Best friends with black eyes. B
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:07 PM   #8
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I don't remember if I read it, or heard about it..and whether it is documented or not historically...


Something about a U.S. soldier got lost, later on finding shelter in a shambled house, and slept. In the morning, he woke up to a German soldier, who was also waking up, just a few feet away. Both slowly grabbed thier gear, made no intentional moves to provoke the other. The two stood up, gave each other a nod (or similar) and went about thier way.

probably just a story, but I am sure similar events have happened.
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