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Amazing tale of a desperate WWII US pilot’s encounter with a German flying ace

On Dec. 20, 1943, a young American bomber pilot named Charlie Brown found himself somewhere over Germany, struggling to keep his plane aloft with just one of its four engines still working....a great read. ( More...

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A great read indeed. Humanity at its best.
aleutianman 12
What a Great Story May they both continue flying in the big sky.
Ricky Scott 9
Met them both in the mid 90s. I was part of a group of WWII Enthusiasts that flew an Online WWII Air Combat game. They came to our convention and gave a talk and it was very apparent that both admired if not acted like brothers. They were great guys and very willing to answer questions.

I must say, they were kind of confused why we did it though :)
I can understand why they would be confused at seeing grown men playing video games where "killing" is just a lark. Up in the morning, pop off a few shots, and "Bob's Your Uncle", you are an ace before breakfast. Not quite reality is it, now?

These guys fought a REAL war, with REAL bullets where REAL people REALLY died. In war time, you don't just shoot at video images of "bad guys"; in war time, the bad guys shoot back - and I am not talking about shooting at phantoms on a screen. In war time, they shoot-

- at

- YOU.
Andriy Tsyupka 7
I just happened to fly my Mooney to EUROPE and back, and as I was flying over UK/HOLLAND/GERMANY etc. I was imagining all these air battles and people that lost their lives, it makes you question LIFE, WAR....have to say this article brought tears into my eyes GOD BLESS!!!
richard weiss 6
In many ways, I wish my half-sister's father had been on that B-17 instead of the one he died on in 1944.
Richard Zank 4
Great article. What a tale of class and honor. This should be a must read for all men.
Mark Lansdell 4
Honor is a rare commodity. I am always glad to find it. It shouldn't be but, it's a new discovery every time I find it and so I'm touched to tears. May God bless all who have it and display it.
Randy Rahlf 4
A great story, i'm very glad they were able to talk with one another and explain their circumstances of that unforgettable day. May they both rest in peace
Gene McPherson 4
Wonderful story!
Wilbur Myers 4
Great story, I am nearly 76 yrs old so I was a young boy during WW2 and very fearful of Germany & Germans. It's great to hear of another good German just doing what he had to do, just like most American military at that time (including my dad). I have a good friend my age from Germany who came to this country after the war. He tells me he was fearful just like me, only he really good reason.
zennermd 3
Amazing... brought tears to my eyes.
Zany4God 3
2 cents: When I heard they were going to talk at the Boeing Museum of Flight, I knew I had to see these two men, and this piece of history. I was in awe as I listened to their story, and appreciative of the fact that they were able to meet each other and become such good friends, brothers. This was several years ago, and I still recall this event as something very special. Thank you for hosting this post. The book is a must buy!
ncpilot 5
These men had class and honor. These are concepts that muslims do not have in their "war".
I don't agree. There was no lack of class and honor between Muslim Egyptian Air Force and Jewish Israeli Air Force pilots during their war with each other.
ncpilot 0
Only on the Israeli side I would bet.
Mark Lansdell 2
Being a Muslim doesn't make you a zellot any more than being a German made you a Nazi. As a great man said 'trust but verify'
ncpilot -1
You obviously have not studied the basic tenets of Islam. There is no correlation in your assertion or comparison with being a Nazi. You are probably going to learn the truth once it is too late.
Matt Lacey 2
I think a better interpretation is the construal of those tenets. There are hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims around the world. There are millions who follow mullahs and imams who interpret the texts of the Koran and the hadiths and fatwas, etc. with extremely violent and retributive meanings. Without a doubt, these interpretations have hugely dangerous consequences for the West. However, a blanket statement about Islam is inaccurate.

Two things to read are The Al Qaeda Reader, which supports your position and undermines anyone who believes Islam is always a religion of peace. It's a translation of the texts put out by AQ in the Middle East that accompanied their videos or audios released to the West. Taqqiyah at the extreme. The other is diaries of Spanish conquistadors in Central and South America in the 1500s. Their words about killing infidels are strikingly similar to those of modern Islamists. The universal problem in human history is not Islam: it's extremism.
joel wiley 2
Perhaps it is just coincidence, but The age and of Christianity in 1500 is about the age of Islam in 2000. Could there be similarities in the evolution of the two religions?
Matt Lacey 1
I've had that same hypothesis since reading those diaries.
ncpilot 1
And from what I have seen, such as what happened on 9-11, 2001, and again on 9-11-2012 and with the Army major yelling "Allah Akbar" as he was killing American soldiers on American soil, I would call Islam extremist.

The muslims who on 9-11-2001, flew planes into the twin towers of theWorld Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pa., were for the time they were here before their evil deed, were thought to be "peaceful", but in reality, they were learning and biding their time until they got the signal to "go". Ever heard of "sleeper" cells? Their religion advocates world domination and the killing of all "infidels".
Matt Lacey 1
There are Islamists and there are Muslims. It's like Branch Davidians and Christians. I try to look at things accurately. I believe we should help radical Islamists realize their dreams of meeting umpteen dark-eyed virgins in heaven. But if you don't understand the distinction between the typical peaceful guy down the street and the ones actually trying to do us harm (including sleeper cells and Hizbollah in the Mexican deserts), you're not seeing reality. All of Islam is not extremist. 10,000 Americans murder someone every year. Is America a nation of murderers? No, obviously not, but your logic would say we are. The world is not black and white. It's fine for one's morals to be and choose associations based on them, but reality is many shades of gray, which granted, include black and white.
preacher1 1
Another 2cts worth. Sad as it may be, you have to go with your gut on the individual. In the 50's, the predjudice was all against the blacks, then it was the folks from Southeast Asia, now it's split between the Mexicans and Islam. All of those groups have their radicals that make it hard on the others. There are those within those groups that I would have at my supper table. There are others that aren't worth the bullet it would take to blow them away. The same holds true for us White folk. You got good White folks and you got White trash. I'm not any better than the next man, regardless of their skin color, until he does something unworthy, and at that point I'll walk away. Depending on what it was, I'd probably not hold any malice but he would not be welcome at my supper table any longer.
Mark Lansdell 1
We disagree, then. The correlation is all Germans in the war were not Nazis and all Muslims are not zealots and jihadists. Maybe that makes them bad Muslims, but they are there.
preacher1 1
Mark: I have to disagree with you a little. Read my post below about being there as a kid in the late'50's. It would have been hard to find a German at that time that had not been a Nazi.Probably not so the older we get and as generations go but we are talking 65+years ago, a different time, but a lot of times, people don't change when they get caught up in a cause. If you get into it, in all the RIGHT WING EXTREMIST GROUPS, as our government labels them, most have Hitler and his actions/policies at their head.
Brian Bishop 2
Awesome story. Great read. Thanks for sharing!
Mark Langley 2
Absolutely a great read!! I teared up too...humanity is the key!
Rob Marple 2
An amazing story. Thanks for sharing.
Well Obama is not precisely American, so...

Anyways, lets talk airplanes.
Tim Segulin 1
Woodrow makes a good point.

I wonder how many RAF fighters would have taken pity on a disabled Heinkel 111 or Dornier 17 and allow its crew a chance to return home and to bomb them again?

How would such action be regarded by RAF Fighter Command or the citizens of London or Coventry staring down the barrel of an apparently imminent German invasion?

Two differences come to mind.

The writing was on the wall for Germany by the time USAAF raids were under way on German soil. Stigler was probably aware that the loss of this crew would not change the outcome.

Sigler's superiors didn't find out and the Americans were on the winning side, so Stigler was never courtmartialled for failing do do his duty and is now regarded as heroic (at least outside Germany) for risking his own neck to save American (and enemy) lives.

It just goes to show that before you get involved in a war, make sure you know who will win and act accordingly!
Tim speaks straight and true. I would say though, that although the war time situation facing Germany had by that time most definitely taken a turn for the worse (as it had for Japan too), it could still not be said that the war was actually lost; things might have yet been able to go either way. In any event, Mr. Stigler's duty was not to show mercy towards the enemy, his duty was to kill him (or at least shoot down his airplanes). So many years later, we can certainly appreciate the fact that the B 17 crew was spared, but looking at things through a starkly analytical prism, I have to ask, "At what cost to Germans"...modern day "Feel Good" stories not withstanding!

Tim is very intelligent. I hereby officially nominate him as the future Queen of England (Camilla Parker Bowles is out of the running, right?).

No sugar coating here.
Tim Segulin 1
Sorry Woodrow I cannot accept. I am not English.
Neither am I, but I play one on TV.
chalet 1
Fantastic, did they ever met, I am sure they did but what were the details
West LA 2
Here is a video of their first in person meeting:

Good men.
chalet 1
Thank you West LA
Brian Nasset 1
Honor What A Concept RIP
honza nl 1
I only wonder: it says only one engine was running? I thought a B17 needed at least 2 but pref. 3 to be able to keep height ?
Leigh Ruxton 1
Honour to them both.
Yours actions and words are heard and will be remembered.
James Simms 1
On my "to get" list
Mark Ryalls 1
Each time I read this story, It gives me hope for humanity. Two great men. Glad they "reunited".
Jeffrey Babey 1
WOW! Great post and a great story of humanity, even in combat.
Mark Lansdell 2
To emulate Hawk-eye Pierce 4077th MASH, the world is full of humanity and humans.
Stephen White 1
True honor!
wonderful tale. shows honor during war periods can and does excist,
What an incredible story this is.In amidst the horror of the air war such humanity is almost unbelievable. As both pilots are now gone the memory of this must be preserved as a reminder of the futility of the conflict
Matt Lacey 1
Would that the Japs (no PC from me, if you're offended by words from strangers you shouldn't have gotten out of kindergarten) who strafed the survivors of my Great Uncle Al's Liberator in the southwest Pacific had the same honor.
You are spot on about PC. There are slur and slang words for everybody and if you are offended that's TS.
You are right, though it is a bit hard to take if someone is passing slur words about one's wife's or daughter's lack of sexual discretion.
Pearl Maeda 2
I am an American of Japanese ancestry. I remember Pearl Harbor and saw the attack. My uncle,(Japanese ancestry)fought as an American in WWII and was killed in Italy. He was in the 100th Battalion. He is buried in the National Cemetery of the Pacific, in Punchbowl.
joel wiley 2
Did he spend time in one of the internment camps before enlisting? Is it PC to refer to Ex. Order 9066 as a stain on the idea of America? On the 50th anniversary of Iwo Jima, it was difficult for veterans of both sides. The effect of war in the air seems quite different from the war in the mud.
Pearl Maeda 2
No, he was not inturned. They could not take all the Japanese from Hawaii like they did on the West Coast. However, we were on marshal law and was watched very closely. The security came into our homes and searched every drawer and closet as we stood and watched. It was scary. But that is all behind us and we are privileged to be living in the GREAT USA. Dec. 7, 1941 changed my life forever!
joel wiley -2
Matt, the post is a 'man bites dog' story. To my limited understanding, honor is an aspect of culture; German and Japanese cultures were wildly different. Consider the differences between the POW stroll from Bataan to Camp O'Donnell with the events at Malmady during the Battle of the Bulge. Al was the sibling of your grandparent. Are you young enough to avoid having a draft lottery # during the Vietnam era? I wonder why you are reliving the slogans of your grandparents time. Don't you have some contemporary ones? I hope you finished kindergarten (a German term) and at least made it to fifth grade. From your syntax, I'd not be surprised if there was some parochial schooling there. ;-)
Matt Lacey 1
Because I don't believe in historical revisionism via rewriting language. Simple direct terms help us address the past, not minimize, paper over it, or water it down with ivory tower diction. There's a difference in using a pejorative for an enemy aggressor and using it in peacetime. And, no, I'd be the last person to have gone to parochial school. Proudly non-religious, but not anti-religious. I enjoy the ring of a well-formed sentence that sounds like it is out of the past.
preacher1 1
My 2cts worth. Both you guys make a valid point in that war has caused us to do strange things at that particular point and time. Too many people want to rewrite that history because they just refuse to accept the fact that we could do something like that(whatever it was). Just because they don't agree with it does not change the fact that it didn't happen.Somebody up above mentioned internment. We are talking 60+ years ago and I can drive by or fly over Moscow or Rorher AR and see nothing but soybean or cotton fields where the camps once stood. Such a thing would be unthinkable nowadays. but back then it was just what the country wanted.
Certainly so many years later we can all rejoice that the B 17 crew was spared. But there is another angle to this story too. It was Franz Stigler's duty to defend Germany and it citizens from destruction by the bombers. By letting this crew go, he effectively allowed them to get a new B 17, come back to Germany and kill more Germans. I wonder how German citizens on the ground would have viewed this incident at the time? What would Mr. Stigler have said to the mothers and fathers of dead German children killed by this very crew perhaps the very next day? If I had been Mr. Stigler's CO, and had I found out about this matter, I would have had him court martialled for aiding and abetting the enemy. That was a crime punishable by death. War time is not fun time.
preacher1 2
Well, it is a fine thing for the crew and a wonderful view of humanity. That said, war is never humane and as Woodrow said, his duty was to shoot down American planes. How many others had he already shot down? That was not his first one and he was well aware of the consequences if found out. As an Army brat in the late 50's, we were stationed in Germany and had to live off base awhile waiting on base housing. This was basically 15 years after the war and there was still plenty of evidence of the bombing around. We saw a picture of the guy that we rented the apartment from from wartime with an iron cross around his neck.Any time you started asking anything about the war, the subject got changed quickly, yet these folks didn't mind taking our rent money each month and the owner had a good cushy job on base. They had accepted losing but predjudice against the Americans ran deep. It is surprising to me that mercy would be shown, with the superior feeling that they had.


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