Author Topic: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew  (Read 9906 times)

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Offline NFLD Sapper

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WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« on: May 12, 2008, 10:34:06 »
WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
Updated Sun. May. 11 2008 10:45 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

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.

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


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


American pilot Charles Brown was badly injured during his first B-17 bomber mission and that's when his life was saved by Franz Stigler.


<EDITED TO ADD>

Thx MODS for moving to a more suitable location.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2008, 12:11:56 by NFLD Sapper »
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Offline S.M.A.

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2008, 13:16:21 »

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

An amazing story! Still, I am a little confused, since the above article states that he became a pilot at age 12; I assume he became a civilian pilot first then later joined the Luftwaffe when he became old enough to join. Just comes to show you that a person's humanity can even show in one of the most unlikeliest of times and sources- from a supposed enemy in wartime.
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Offline karl28

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2008, 09:01:04 »
     It is most definitely an amazing story thanks for posting it

Offline geo

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2008, 09:30:30 »
Hmmm... chivalry wasn't dead in WW2 after all.

This fella woulda certainly been offered a one way ticket to the Russian Front in a (hard) labour battalion, never to be seen again, if his superiors had found out.

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Offline AJFitzpatrick

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2008, 10:03:40 »
While this story as a single event is interesting and the passing of years has removed much animosity, I feel compelled to ask what the feelings would be if the roles were reversed and it was an Allied pilot who spared the life of a German bomber crew.

Perhaps this is provocative but it bothers me to think that I feel grateful to the German pilot whereas in the alternative case I would feel a lot of animosity for the hypothetical Allied Pilot.

Maybe in the end a question best not asked, but there it is for what it is worth.

Offline RandomAVS

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2008, 10:10:47 »
Amazing story, and I'm glad to see no one has incorrectly and stupidly posted something to the effect of "I guess all Nazi's weren't evil"

My German buddy at work said that there's alot of stories passed down about German soldiers and hte like sparing and even assisting the Allies because of the animosity felt towards the Nazi party at the time.

I do believe that his becoming a pilot at 12 was probably because he was a Nazi youth or a son of rich people...that's the way I understand how alot of the pilots were recruited.

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2008, 12:19:51 »
And one wonders why pilots were thought of as the civilized fighters.  I've heard more than a few cold war stories of opposing sides (usually Cdn and E German) meeting up in the air and having impromptu dog fights, then going on their merry ways.
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Offline dglad

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2008, 21:07:22 »
Robert Johnson, in his book "Thunderbolt!", describes how, after his P-47 was badly damaged and he was trying to limp home to England, he was bounced by a Focke-Wulf 190.  The German, perhaps sensing an easy kill, made several passes, hammering away at the Thunderbolt with his guns.   A testament to the sturdiness of the Thunderbolt, although he pounded it well, the American plane just kept flying along while Johnson hunkered down behind the armor plate behind his seat (he'd lost some flight controls and his windscreen was covered with oil, so dog-fighting was out of the question) and waited for the end.  But the 190 pilot suddenly pulled up alongside the P-47, looked it over, shook his head, gave Johnson a wave and a salute, then peeled away, allowing the American to make it over the Channel and actually back to his base in England.  Evidently, the German decided that the American had been through enough and, still flying in spite of his badly shot-up plane, deserved to get home.  He probably could have shot Johnson down with another pass or two, but didn't.

I read that book years and years ago, and that bit still sticks with me...being quite young, I still pictured Germans universally as "the bad guys", thanks to shows like Rat Patrol, Combat! and Hogan's Heroes, not to mention Sgt Rock comics.  And here, suddenly, I was faced with a factual account of a German behaving like a decent human being.  It was a small, but definite shift in my "boy's view" of the world. 
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Offline X-mo-1979

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2008, 21:21:36 »
An excellent example of a human closing the emotional/physical distance and humanising the target.Relevance towards the payoff motive to kill as well.Excellent discussion for anyone who read "on killing" by Grossman.

Too bad war's now we fight against unhuman creatures....unfortunate for these creatures as well. ;)



Offline geo

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2008, 21:29:59 »
dglad.... it could also be possible that, after pounding the P47 for so long... the FW mighta been outa ammo.  The German pilot, amazed at the sturdiness of this flying tank probably decided on a flyby and salute before heading home to the barn.
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Offline dglad

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2008, 21:39:44 »
dglad.... it could also be possible that, after pounding the P47 for so long... the FW mighta been outa ammo.  The German pilot, amazed at the sturdiness of this flying tank probably decided on a flyby and salute before heading home to the barn.

Possible.  Johnson didn't think so, but of course, without being able to ask this anonymous German pilot, we have no way of knowing.  I can only go by what Johnson wrote; he seemed to believe the Luftwaffe pilot had spared him.  That was what impressed me as a young teenager, not the prosaic possibility he'd just run out of bullets.
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Offline Roy Harding

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2008, 00:59:23 »
While this story as a single event is interesting and the passing of years has removed much animosity, I feel compelled to ask what the feelings would be if the roles were reversed and it was an Allied pilot who spared the life of a German bomber crew.

Perhaps this is provocative but it bothers me to think that I feel grateful to the German pilot whereas in the alternative case I would feel a lot of animosity for the hypothetical Allied Pilot.

Maybe in the end a question best not asked, but there it is for what it is worth.

A good question.  And best asked.

There are similar stories, with the roles reversed - perhaps you haven't discovered them yet.  ("Christmas in the trenches" being the most famous).

I'm surprised to read that you would feel animosity if the roles had been reversed.  After hostilities have ceased (and sometimes while hostilities are active) men at arms tend to feel a kinship toward other men at arms. despite their affiliation - it's not an uncommon experience.



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Offline 3rd Herd

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2008, 16:38:55 »
A more complete story of the initial article including links.

Chivalry in the Air
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http://aviationartstore.com/chivalry_in_the_air.htm



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Offline KingRooster

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2008, 23:43:21 »
An amazing story! Still, I am a little confused, since the above article states that he became a pilot at age 12; I assume he became a civilian pilot first then later joined the Luftwaffe when he became old enough to join.

In Germany during the Nazi rule 1933-1945, they had youth programs very similar to our cadet program here.  Once 12 Y/O, you went more or less mandatory to one of these as dictated by your family.  I imagine this gentleman was in the air branch of the Hitler Youth.  Hope this helps, great story btw ;)
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Offline tomahawk6

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B-17 and the Me-109
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2017, 19:52:04 »
Badly shot up over Germany in WW2 a lone B-17 was limping home with its crew wounded heading for England and safety. Suddenly an Me-109 appeared. The Lord moves in mysterious ways.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/09/living/higher-call-military-chivalry/index.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8EkmyoG83Q

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Re: B-17 and the Me-109
« Reply #15 on: March 20, 2017, 19:56:31 »
It's a good book to read as well.

Offline CBH99

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2017, 02:33:50 »
One of my all time favorite uncles - who just recently passed this last year - was a gunner in an Allied bomber.  He actually served from 1941 to 1944, and somehow was never shot.

He also, in his elderly-man humour, chuckled that in all that time he didn't think he ever actually shot down a German plane - but he damn-well tried!!  His stories always used to crack us up, as he told them with a civility and a sly smile that I feel his generation wore well.


**In one of his stories, he was flying in a formation of Allied bombers.  It was extremely thick cloud cover, and the bombers would use the clouds as cover while they approached their target.

On one mission, while coming out of the clouds, he and his fellow crew quickly realized that they were in a formation.  A formation of German aircraft!  Somehow, while using the clouds for cover, they had drifted away from their own formation & somehow landed right in the middle of a German formation they didn't even know was there.

He was absolutely terrified.....but according to him, the German pilots looked over, laughed at the unbelievably bad luck of his aircraft, and they both went their merry ways without a shot being fired.  Once the sheer terror of their situation had ceased, they laughed about it - and they were sure the Germans had done the same.
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Online mariomike

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Re: WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2017, 14:58:43 »
On one mission, while coming out of the clouds, he and his fellow crew quickly realized that they were in a formation.  A formation of German aircraft!  Somehow, while using the clouds for cover, they had drifted away from their own formation & somehow landed right in the middle of a German formation they didn't even know was there.

Was your uncle in the RCAF? Was this a day or night trip? If you don't mind me asking.

Ie: USAAF bomber formation daylight tactics were different than RCAF night "streams.

The Luftwaffe had a pair of upward firing 20 mm cannons known as schrage muzik. This allowed them to manoeuvre under the blind spot beneath night bombers. The first many crews knew about an attack was when cannon shells ripped into their aircraft. Major Heinz Schnaufer ( NJG 4 ), a famous night-fighter pilot, when interviewed on 21 May 1945 by two Bomber Command gunners, claimed that he had attacked 20 to 30 bombers with his upward firing guns at about 80 yards range, and of these only one in ten ever saw him.

It has been a matter of debate since the war if Canada's 6 Group, who alone fitted ventral turrets to many of their Lancasters to cover the blind spot, were justified in sacrificing speed and adding weight - and an eighth crew member - to do so.

In his interview he also said, "No co-ordinated night attacks were ever carried out" and he "thought that if a bomber was attacked by two aircraft at the same time it was merely coincidence."
He pointed out that, "it was difficult to formate with another fighter at night, and they would invariably lose contact with each other".
It was common belief that German night-fighters hunted in pairs, or even in three's. Major Schnaufer said that would be a coincidence and nothing more.



 

 
« Last Edit: March 21, 2017, 15:13:56 by mariomike »
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