Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Warrior with Honor

Look carefully at the B-17 and note how shot up it is--one engine dead, tail, horizontal stabilizer and nose shot up. It was ready to fall out of the sky. (This painting was done by an artist from the description of both pilots many years later.) You see that there is a German ME-109 fighter flying next to it? Now read the story below.

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.

After flying 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, 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 the 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 the briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it.

More that 40 years later, Charlie 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.
(click here for more of this story)

Just one of many stories of war...
many sad but also some with a happy ending.

Join me in honoring those that have given all,
to keep this great nation going.

Salute!

3 comments:

Marjorie (Molly) Smith said...

It's men like these, men of honor that keep this Country safe.

♥Mimi♥ said...

We have to teach our children and grandchildren about the everyday heroes of all wars fought by our brave men. Transformers, cartoon strong guys...none of them can compare to the real life living and breathing men who did so much with so little.

If we don't do this Decoration/Memorial Day will become just another long holiday and the meaning of the day will be lost. What a tragedy. The blood of our men spilled for our freedom and we reduce their honor to a beer and a hot dog with an extra day off.

Thanks so much for sharing that story...remarkable.

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

Although I've read this story before, I loved reading it again. It never ceases to amaze and inspire me! Thanks so much for sharing it. laurie