A B-17 War Story
Posted by jackfolla on March 16 2008 00:32:46
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 over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Steigler 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 everywhere .
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.
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 C/O 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 about it.
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 inci dent, not even at post-war reunions.
They met in th e USA
at a 379th. Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who are alive now -
all because Franz never fired his guns that day.
Research shows that Charlie Brown lived in Seattle
and Franz Steigler had moved to Vancouver,
BC after the war. When they
finally met, they discovered they had lived less than 200 miles apart for the
past 50 years!