When an Enemy Was a Friend

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Messages:
    12,631
    Likes Received:
    309
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    I saw this in another forum. I cannot vouch for its accuracy.

    VALOR
    January 1997, Vol. 80, No. 1
    By John L. Frisbee, Contributing Editor

    When an Enemy Was a Friend

    Brown's B-17 was perhaps the most heavily damaged bomber to return from combat. It survived because of an enemy's act of chivalry.

    Dec. 20, 1943, was a typically cold, overcast winter day in Britain as 2d Lt. Charles L. Brown's B-17F lined up for takeoff. It was 21-year-old Charlie Brown's first combat mission as an aircraft commander with the 379th Bomb Group, the target an FW-190 factory at Bremen, Germany. He and his crew of Ye Olde Pub were to become participants in an event probably unique at that time in the air war over Europe--a mission that would remain shrouded in mystery for many years.
    The bombers began their 10-minute bomb run at 27,300 feet, the temperature: negative 60 degrees. Flak was heavy and accurate. Before "bombs away," Brown's B-17 took hits that shattered the Plexiglas nose, knocked out the number two engine, damaged number four--which frequently had to be throttled back to prevent overspeeding- -and caused undetermined damage to the controls. Coming off target, Lieutenant Brown was unable to stay with the formation and became a straggler.

    Almost immediately, the lone and limping B-17 came under a series of attacks from 12 to 15 Bf-109s and FW-190s that lasted for more than 10 minutes. The number three engine was hit and would produce only half power. Oxygen, hydraulic, and electrical systems were damaged, and the controls were only partially responsive. The bomber's 11 defensive guns were reduced by the extreme cold to only the two top turret guns and one forward-firing nose gun. The tailgunner was killed and all but one of the crew in the rear incapacitated by wounds or exposure to the frigid air. Lieutenant Brown took a bullet fragment in his right shoulder.

    Charlie Brown figured the only chance of surviving this pitifully unequal battle was to go on the offensive. Each time a wave of attackers approached, he turned into them, trying to disrupt their aim with his remaining firepower. The last thing oxygen-starved Brown remembers was reversing a steep turn, becoming inverted, and looking "up" at the ground. When he regained full consciousness, the B-17 was miraculously level at less than 1,000 feet.

    Still partially dazed, Lieutenant 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. The pilot waved, then flew across the B-17's nose and motioned Brown to land in Germany, which the aircraft commander refused to do. After escorting them for several miles out over the North Sea, the Luftwaffe pilot saluted, rolled over, and disappeared. Why had he not shot them down? The answer did not emerge for many years.

    The B-17 did make it across 250 miles of storm-tossed North Sea and landed at Seething near the English coast, home of the 448th Bomb Group, which had not yet flown its first mission. The crew was debriefed on their mission, including the strange encounter with the Bf-109. For unknown reasons, the debriefing was classified "secret" and remained so for many years. Lieutenant Brown went on to complete a combat tour, finish college, accept a regular commission, and serve in the Office of Special Investigations, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and in other Air Force and State Department assignments until his retirement. He now lives in Miami, Fla., where he is founder and president of an energy and environmental research center.

    The image of his strange encounter with the Bf-109 remained firmly embedded in Charlie Brown's memory. In 1986, he began a search for the anonymous pilot. Finally, in 1990, former Oberleutnant Franz Stigler, now living in Canada, responded to a notice published in a newsletter for German fighter pilots. By comparing time, place, and aircraft markings, it was determined that Stigler was the chivalrous pilot who had allowed Brown's crew to live. Not surprisingly, Brown and Stigler have become close friends.

    On that December day in 1943, there had been two persuasive reasons why Stigler should have shot down the B-17. First, earlier in the day, he had downed two four-engine bombers and needed only one more that day to earn a Knight's Cross. Second, his decision to not finish off the aircraft was a court-martial offense in Nazi Germany and if revealed could have led to his execution. He considered these alternatives while flying formation with the B-17, "the most heavily damaged aircraft I ever saw that was still flying." He could see the wounded aboard and thought, "I cannot kill these half-dead people. It would be like shooting at a parachute."

    Franz Stigler's act of chivalry has been justly, though belatedly, honored by several military organizations here and abroad. On the other hand, Charles Brown was not decorated for his heroism over Germany, which never was reported by the 448th Bomb Group at Seething to his commanders. Such are the fortunes of war and its aftermath.

    Pubished January 1997. For presentation on this web site, some Valor articles have been amended for accuracy.
     
  2. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Messages:
    20,140
    Likes Received:
    54
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Occupation:
    Engineer
    Location:
    Washington State
    There are some inaccuracies for sure.

    Example...climbing on one engine? Nah eh.
     
  3. Henk

    Henk Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2006
    Messages:
    2,826
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Distribution of Magazines and driver
    Location:
    George - South Africa
    The aircraft had not just one engine running. It means that only one engine were running at 100%.
     
  4. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Messages:
    20,140
    Likes Received:
    54
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Occupation:
    Engineer
    Location:
    Washington State
    Right gotcha Henk. No1 @ 100%. No2 dead. No3 half power and No4 throttled back.

    Below is Lt. Charles Brown, German Ace Franz Stigler and the artist of the works on the right.

    {Pic from aviationstore.com}
     

    Attached Files:

  5. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Still a student
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    Something similar happened to Bob Johnson in his P-47. The Bf 109 pilot had ran out of ammunition after shooting at Johnson. The Thunderbolt did not go down. The German pilot went up alongside the wounded aircraft, saluted and then went back across the channel.

    I heard in accounts where a crippled B-17 would be left alone by the German fighters. Sometimes they may have figured it would crash anyway. Sometimes the B-17 Pilot could still fly it back to England. The German Pilots had made a mistake in thinking the damaged aircraft would crash in enemy territory. Did they do something agains't the rules in allowing the B-17 wreck to get away and to hope it would die on it's own? I mean, If I was a German Pilot I would be consider if it was worth it to fly after some wounded stray and use up my gas and ammunition on it.
     
  6. Henk

    Henk Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2006
    Messages:
    2,826
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Distribution of Magazines and driver
    Location:
    George - South Africa
    Pretty good. I think it is really great if you get such stuff during a time when you never expect it to happen.
     
  7. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Messages:
    20,140
    Likes Received:
    54
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Occupation:
    Engineer
    Location:
    Washington State
    I have a book Gunner: An Illustrated History of World War II Aircraft Turrets and Gun Positions (Hardcover), that provides an account of a B-17 gunner who claimed that an Bf-109 flew up into the 17's blindspot (just aft and port of the tailplane) and flew alongside their crippled B-17, lit a ciggy and cruised along with them for a few minutes. Then abruptly saluted and dove away. The gunner claimed they wrote this up in after action reports. This "blind spot" would not allow any gunner to train a weapon on the 109.

    Seems dubious to me. That would be one balsy 109 pilot, some fantastic flying to maintain that blindspot trajectory while converging, and some rather feeble attempts by the 17 crew not to maneauver to get a shot. But more fantastic things have happened I guess.

    And if you have never seen this book before, I HIGHLY recommend it. Talks about fighter tactics, equipment development history, performance/effectiveness and first person operational encounters with gun positions in B-17, B-24, B-25, Ju-88, B-29, Lanc, Halifax, and many others. The pics are FIRST quality with close up shots that allow you to read the stenciled wording on turret equipment, magazines and gunner positions. Great book.

    Amazon.com: Gunner: An Illustrated History of World War II Aircraft Turrets and Gun Positions: Books: Donald Nijboer,Dan Patterson
     
  8. Chingachgook

    Chingachgook Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    214
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    "comments: I was a tailgunner in WWII, ( 8th airforce) on the plane the" Glamour Gal". I flew 13 missions out of England over Europe. Our plane was in repair when we were called out on duty. We used the
    "Dotty Jane". On our 13th mission, March 6th ( my birthday) 1944 to Berlin, we were hit by anti-aircraft fire over Berlin. Our radio man was blown out and 9 bombs, and 3 were wounded ( a waist gunner- Bob Benjamin, the top turret gunner- herbert Morris, and I in the tail.). The pilot flew us back to England, with only half the plane. The Dotty Jane never flew again, and it was my last mission due to wounds.
    Pilot-Arthur Socolofsky
    Co-pilot- hayden hughes
    Navigator-Wray nHylton
    Bomber- Charles Duncan
    Radioman- Alton Moore
    Ball Turret- Kenneth Olson
    Waist gunner- Bob Benjamin
    Waist gunner- Ralph Mertz
    Tail gunner- Lyman Emrich
    Lyman Emrich
    447th Bomb Gp 708 th Bomb Sq
    Aircraft: Glamour Gal
    E-mail: [email protected]"
     
  9. Chingachgook

    Chingachgook Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    214
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    found another pic...
     
  10. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2004
    Messages:
    41,750
    Likes Received:
    518
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Doctor
    Location:
    Portsmouth / Royal Deeside, UK
    Home Page:
    Good stuff, interesting story. Surprising that the German pilot passed up the Knight's cross that day (although he probably got it later). I do understand the reasons which are understandable.
     
  11. kiwimac

    kiwimac Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2004
    Messages:
    1,128
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Priest
    Location:
    Deepest Darkest NZ
    Home Page:
    Its kind of insane actually. I remember the story of the English POW who was awarded the VC. When the Commandant of the camp found out, he put on a party for him and required all the guards to salute him.

    Stories also of both Italian POWS and English jumping into rivers in enemy territory to try and save children. Further to that my Uncle (a child during WW2) was saved from falling off a cliff here in NZ by a man later found to be a German spy.
     
  12. R-2800

    R-2800 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Messages:
    541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    WAWA!!!!
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Matt 308: I hear it is a great book and I just ordered it form Barnes and Noble i can't wait for it to come :) .The story of the '17 is amazing and i am always interested in these abnormal happenings
     
  13. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Messages:
    41,768
    Likes Received:
    684
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    A&P - Aircraft Technician
    Location:
    USA/Germany
    There are actually several instances of stuff like this happening. I read in an artical in the WW2 History magazine about a crippled B-17 that was escorted out of German territory and halfway accross the English Channel by a Bf-109 pilot who could have easily just shot them down.

    Later after the war the 2 pilots met each other and later became friends. There is even a painting that was commissioned and the 2 pilots signed the painting.
     
  14. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2006
    Messages:
    2,934
    Likes Received:
    105
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Occupation:
    retired avionics engineer
    Location:
    Southern California
    Strange and touching story. But I don't think I would have done the same as the German pilot. That bomber crew would not hesitate to get back into another bomber and come back and kill my family, friends, other children, and destroy my country and help our defeat. Maybe there was a chivalry that was left over from an earlier age. It would probably be tough but the bomber should have been shot down. Maybe the horrors of war would change my attitude.
     
  15. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Messages:
    20,140
    Likes Received:
    54
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Occupation:
    Engineer
    Location:
    Washington State

    Let us know what you think R-2800. The book deserves some kudos.
     
  16. Chingachgook

    Chingachgook Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    214
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    davparlr,
    I read about a B-24 crew who had been shot up over Italy. LW aircraft where working it over and the pilot dropped the gear as a sign that they were giving up/going to ditch - supposedly a sign to stop shooting. Well, the Luft pilots stopped shooting. Then one of the gunners on the B-24 got trigger happy and nailed one of the 109s - shooting it down. LW units in the area were NOT happy. The B-24 got home, but their Squadron was hunted from then on out - eventually having to change their tail colors to avoid being targeted so. This is as I remember - anyone else know this story?
     
  17. R-2800

    R-2800 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Messages:
    541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    WAWA!!!!
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Will do :)
     
  18. R-2800

    R-2800 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Messages:
    541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    WAWA!!!!
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Yes the Group was called the 450th B.G. and they had white on their rudders which is were they got the name the "Cottontails" and after this incident they had to get rid of the white becasue as you say they were singled out
     
  19. R-2800

    R-2800 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Messages:
    541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    WAWA!!!!
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Here is a pic hope it works

    [​IMG]
     
  20. R-2800

    R-2800 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Messages:
    541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    WAWA!!!!
    Location:
    New Jersey
    dang it dosent:(
     
Loading...

Share This Page