The real Charlie Brown

Discussion in 'Stories' started by Thorlifter, May 11, 2009.

  1. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    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.
     

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  2. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    Seems to me I read about this in one of my books, but there were no names
    given. Perhaps it was a different plane, place and time. Still interesting
    what war does to some men.

    Charles
     
  3. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    I think that's a wonderful story. I salute all the men involved - especially the man who could've pulled the trigger and didn't.

    Thanks for posting TL!
     
  4. Amsel

    Amsel Active Member

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    Great story. The chivalry amongst those pilots of yesterday is a fresh breath of air.
     
  5. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    Great story, really shows you how compassion is still possible in war.
     
  6. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Heard the story before (think is posted somewhere on the forum). Really is a great story though and not one I would tire of hearing repeatedly. :salute:
     
  7. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    It has been posted several times on the forum, but it is a great story to read over and over. Great post again!
     
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