Saturday, 03 December 2011 14:01

WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew


    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.

    Source


    Related World War History Online Posts

    • Remains of WWII servicemen buried
      Remains of WWII servicemen buried The Pentagon says the men took off in their B-17E Flying Fortress named "Naughty But Nice" in June 1943 from an airfield in Papua New Guinea
    • 150,000-250,000 Jews murdered - Filmmaker Confronts Romanian Leaders Over Silence
      150,000-250,000 Jews murdered - Filmmaker Confronts Romanian Leaders Over Silence In a new documentary film, director Florin Iepan confronts Romania's leaders over their ongoing silence about the country's role in the Holocaust But in a place where war criminals are still lauded as national heroes, his aim of getting them to acknowledge the past remains a daunting task. "Hello, Mr. President," filmmaker Florin Iepan shouts. "I would like to introduce…
    • World War II Curtiss SB2C Helldiver bomber on display at Crossville fly-in
      World War II Curtiss SB2C Helldiver bomber on display at Crossville fly-in If you decide to attend the 2012 Crossville Fly-In and Open House at Crossville Memorial Airport on Sept. 29, you will be able to inspect, up close, one of the last line of aircraft developed for the U.S. Navy, specifically designed for the role of dive bombing. A Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, one of only three still intact, and the only…
    • South Korea presses Japan at U.N. over 'comfort women'
      South Korea presses Japan at U.N. over 'comfort women' After decades of frustration, personal protests and government  declarations, South Korea on Wednesday appealed to the United Nations in its demand that Japan take “legal responsibility” for enslaving an estimated 200,000 Korean women as prostitutes during World War II.