Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Honorable Warriors

December 20, 1943 saw one of many bombing raids over Germany.  It saw, like many of those raids, bombers shot down or very badly shot up.

Ye Olde Pub, a B-17 piloted by LT Charlie Brown was one of those badly shot up.  His tail gunner was dead and most of the flight crew were wounded by the mauling that Me 109 and FW 190s that tried to finish off what the German Flak had started.

One of those fighter pilots was Franz Stigler, a veteran and Ace who, with 22 kills only needed one more to see his name submitted for the Knight's Cross.  But Stigler was a true knight, in the most chivalrous sense of the term:
Remembering the words of one of his commanding officers from the Jagdgeschwader 27, Gustav Rödel, during his time fighting in north Africa – “You are fighter pilots first, last, always. If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I'll shoot you myself." Stigler later commented, "To me, it was just like they were in a parachute. I saw them and I couldn't shoot them down."
Instead, Stigler escorted them to the English Channel, where they flew back to England and safety.  47 years later, they met each other a second time:

We never know whether we will measure up to our own aspirations until we are tested by flame.  At that moment we find our true mettle.


RabidAlien said...

I love this story! Goosebumps every time I read/hear it.

Dunno if its the same one, but there's another story of a battered B-17 (possibly a -24, I can't recall off-hand) that was escorted back to the Channel by a German fighter. The German had pulled even with the cockpit of the bomber and motioned them to turn south towards Switzerland, but the bomber pilot shook his head and motioned that they were going to try for England. The fighter pilot nodded, and flew off their wing, even called off a couple of other -109's and stopped them from finishing off the bomber. Bomber got his radio working again, radioed his situation in to England, and they were met over the Channel by a couple of Spits, who wagged their wings to the German as they took over the escort duties. There were good men on both sides of the war, just doing their duty for their country, not necessarily for their leader or his ideologies.

Brad_in_IL said...


Holy Brother of Moses !!!!

I just finished reading "A Higher Call" which tells the story from both Brown's and Stigler's points of view, then tells of the two pilots meeting 40+ years later.
For anyone with even a fleeting interest in this story, the book qualifies as a MUST READ. For me, there was a LOT of dust & crap in the air for about the last 75 pages. LOTS of dust. In another odd turn of events, it was fighter ace and jet pilot Adolf Galand who helped arrange the meeting. Galand was head of the volunteer German Fighter Pilots Association, and Brown searched for Stigler by submitting his story in the group's newsletter. Stigler subsequently read the story and responded accordingly.

RabidAllen, in A Higher Call, Stigler tried to motion the crippled bomber to neutral Sweden, but Brown decided to head to England. One thing Stigler did was escort Brown & his crew over the coast, past a slew of German Flak batteries. According to the story, the lead gun commander on the ground spotted the '17 and prepped his guys to fire, but upon seeing the 109 held off.

Go get A Higher Call and read it.

- Brad

RabidAlien said...

Thanks for the reference, Brad! My braincell is indeed a bit rusty, and this may very well be the story I was thinking of. Added the book to my Amazon wishlist! Thanks!