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

    • Civilians on the frontline - WWII a different war
      Civilians on the frontline - WWII a different war The speed and success of the early stages of the German campaign in Europe surprised even its own commanders. By 1940, says Richard Overy, it looked like this 'total war' would spell disaster for Britain too When the second world war broke out on 3 September 1939, the populations of the fighting powers expected immediate air raids as the enemy…
    • British prisoner of War stitched hidden anti-Hitler message into Nazi quilt
      British prisoner of War stitched hidden anti-Hitler message into Nazi quilt A Prisoner of War stitched up his German captors after they unwittingly displayed his coded needlework containing the message 'God Save the King' and 'F**k Hitler' in prison camps where he was held captive. Maj Alexis Casdagil sewed a Morse code message around his sampler, reading 'God saves the king'. Photo: David Fearn/newsteam 9:07AM GMT 11 Jan 2012 Imprisoned by…
    • Tree carvings and bark grafitti unveil private lives from WW2
      Tree carvings and bark grafitti unveil private lives from WW2 British student has become the world's only expert in military tree carvings - using the bark grafitti to trace soldiers' life stories Chantel Summerfield, 24, is studying the inscriptions engraved into tree trunks by troops during the two World Wars as part of her archaeology PhD. Often using just a name, initials or date, she traces the military and family…
    • WWII-era war "British bomber" found in sea off Turkey
      WWII-era war "British bomber" found in sea off Turkey A World War II war plane, believed to be a British bomber, has been found at the bottom of the sea off the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.