The real Charlie Brown
Copeland on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 10:25am
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 is a painting done by an artist from the description
of both pilots many years later.) Then realize that there is a German
ME-109 fighter flying next to it. Now read the story below. I think
you’ll be surprised.
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 to Kimbolton.
After flying the B-17 over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named
Franz Stigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17. When he
got near the B-17, 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
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.
BF-109 pilot Franz Stigler
B-17 pilot Charlie Brown
Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at
Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and 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 their briefing, but were ordered never to talk
More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown 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
(L-R) German Ace Franz Stigler, artist Ernie Boyett, and B-17 pilot
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.
This was back when there was honor, even among enemies. They didn’t
hide in mosques or use women and children as shields for ambush. They
didn’t strap bombs on mentally ill women and children to kill innocent
How times have changed…