Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew


  • Please log in to reply
43 replies to this topic

#1 macrusk

macrusk

    Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,713 posts

Posted 12 May 2008 - 05:49 AM

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.

CTV.ca News Staff

Posted Image
Franz Stigler 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.

With a report from CTV's Brent Gilbert

See video WW2 German fighter pilot saved U.S. bomber crew : Home : News : Sympatico / MSN
  • Kai-Petri likes this
Regards, Michelle

Oliver Goldsmith, "I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines." :flag_canada_ww2: :flag_canada: :flag_uk:
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

#2 Skipper

Skipper

    Kommodore

  • ModeratorsOKF Moderator
  • 21,996 posts

Posted 12 May 2008 - 05:56 AM

This is a nice story. They happened more than you would think. Thank you for posting this, I enjoy these chevalric gestures, especially when they save lives!

Vorsicht+Feind.JPG


#3 Falcon Jun

Falcon Jun

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,281 posts

Posted 12 May 2008 - 07:21 AM

I agree. Despite the brutality of war, man's humanity to another man can still shine through.

#4 Xeorn

Xeorn

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 5 posts

Posted 12 May 2008 - 09:37 AM

Excellent story, but the age must of been a typo?.

#5 Owen

Owen

    O

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,678 posts

Posted 12 May 2008 - 10:01 AM

Posted Image

B-17 F "Ye Olde Pub"

#6 PzJgr

PzJgr

    Drill Instructor

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 8,063 posts
  • LocationJefferson, OH

User's Awards

2   

Posted 12 May 2008 - 12:50 PM

Nicely done Wessex and a fine story
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

#7 Totenkopf

Totenkopf

    אוּרִיאֵל

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,460 posts

Posted 12 May 2008 - 04:27 PM

Haha I watched this on C.T.V. when it had just came on!

Heh.. they are scratching your paint job, Helmut!


#8 kingthreehead

kingthreehead

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 63 posts

Posted 12 May 2008 - 04:34 PM

Excellent story, but the age must of been a typo?.



I agree. I think a 12 year old would be even to short to operate a german aircraft.


However nice story though.
When I feed the poor, they call me a saint,
but when I ask why the poor are hungry,
they call me a communist.

#9 Erich

Erich

    Alte Hase

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,429 posts

Posted 12 May 2008 - 05:10 PM

funny how this story has come back and back from the shadows and from several weeks ago visiting many WW 2 sites first done up on the armyairforces site officially some years back when it first entered the net. Franz Stigler never liked to talk about this event as he never considered himself more than just a pilot serving his country but it does show even during chivalry that Franz had a brain on his shoulders and did not obey the strict order to take down the "Terror Fliegers" at any cost. The painting depicted is actually not correct a/c wise-camo.............whatever
Franz was a special man and was living in Vancouver, B.C. till his sad passing recently at his home. was able to interview him years ago with several books signed by him a very solid man with memory especially his time while serving in III./IV./JG 27 Afrika in the deserts and finally back in Defense of the Reich and then as T.Offizier in JV 44, and I truly believe with his honesty in the air for reason as one he received the Deutsche Kreuz in Gold

E ~

#10 Kai-Petri

Kai-Petri

    Kenraali

  • ModeratorsOKF Moderator
  • 20,307 posts

User's Awards

2   

Posted 13 May 2008 - 03:00 PM

Excellent story! Thanx!
Posted Image

#11 C.Evans

C.Evans

    Expert

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,883 posts

Posted 13 May 2008 - 10:38 PM

Thank you for such a great story! I wonder how many more like stories are out there that we don't know about?

Anyway, may Herr Stiegler Rest in Peace.
Lost are only those, who abandon themselves) Hans-Ulrich Rudel.
:snoopy: :ww1ace:
Posted Image

#12 macrusk

macrusk

    Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,713 posts

Posted 16 May 2008 - 05:33 AM

Excellent story, but the age must of been a typo?.


I copied it from the news site without retyping...???? Yes, the age bothered me, but I never change the information I get from a source.
Regards, Michelle

Oliver Goldsmith, "I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines." :flag_canada_ww2: :flag_canada: :flag_uk:
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

#13 TA152

TA152

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,423 posts

Posted 16 May 2008 - 05:54 AM

The Germans were big on gliders before the war started and had many glider clubs where pilots learned to fly. Perhaps he was in one of these and got his training there before the war started.

In the US you can fly a glider at 14. :eek:
I need a bailout of only $500,000

#14 C.Evans

C.Evans

    Expert

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,883 posts

Posted 17 May 2008 - 10:38 PM

The Germans were big on gliders before the war started and had many glider clubs where pilots learned to fly. Perhaps he was in one of these and got his training there before the war started.

In the US you can fly a glider at 14. :eek:



If I recall correctly, flying gliders is how history's greatest scoring fighter pilot by the name of: Erich Alfred Hartmann, got his start. In case your wondering how many aerial victories he had-it is a standing record @ 352 victories with the vast majority being Russian kills.
Lost are only those, who abandon themselves) Hans-Ulrich Rudel.
:snoopy: :ww1ace:
Posted Image

#15 bigfun

bigfun

    Ace

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,837 posts

Posted 17 May 2008 - 11:33 PM

Very nice story! Thanks Michelle!!
Scott :flag_USA_ww2: :flag_netherlands:

#16 JCFalkenbergIII

JCFalkenbergIII

    Expert

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,479 posts

Posted 28 May 2008 - 08:23 PM

WWII Angel of Mercy Pilot Reunion-German Ace Let Badly Damaged B-17 Fly Home-Pilots Meet Years Later

May 28th, 2008 Posted By Bash.
Posted Image
Pictured is a drawing of the incident: The English B-17 “Ye Olde Pub” in front, and the German BF-109 in back as escort. Notice the damage on the B-17: the nose is gone, one propellor is not working, the back turret is gone, the tail section is shredded and missing, holes in the hull. Artist is Ernie Boyett.
Found this story at a blog called Strive2Be

Charlie Brown (a 21-year old) was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called “Ye Olde Pub” and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters while on a mission to bomb a factory in Bremen, Germany. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.
B-17 pilot Charlie Brown.
Posted Image
After flying over an enemy airfield, Charlie Brown stated that his heart sank. A 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 everywhere.
BF-109 pilot Franz Stigler.
Posted Image
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.
Brown stated that he noticed Stigler’s plane flying alongside him: It seemed amazing that the heavily damaged B-17 remained in the air. But it did, and Brown hoped to keep it flying until he reached the shores of England 250 miles away.
Drawing of the English B-17 “Ye Olde Pub” in front, and the German BF-109 in back as escort. Notice the damage on the B-17: the nose is gone, one propellor is not working, the back turret is gone, the tail section is shredded and missing, holes in the hull.
Still partially dazed, Lt. Brown began a slow climb with only one engine at full power. With three seriously injured aboard, he rejected bailing out or a crash landing. The alternative was a thin chance of reaching the UK. While nursing the battered bomber toward England, Brown looked out the right window and saw a BF-109 flying on his wing.
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 commanding officer 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. Franz had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.
They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion in 1989, together with five people who are alive now—-all because Franz never fired his guns that day.
After the war, Brown remained in the Air Force, serving in many capacities until he retired in 1972 as a Lieutenant Colonel and settled in Miami as head of a combustion research company. But the episode of the German who refused to attack a beaten foe haunted him. He was determined to find the enemy pilot who spared him and his crew.
He wrote numerous letters of inquiry to German military sources, with little success. Finally, a notice in a newsletter for former Luftwaffe pilots elicited a response from Franz Stigler, a German fighter ace credited with destroying over two dozen Allied planes. He, it turned out, was the angel of mercy in the skies over Germany on that fateful day just before Christmas 1943.
It had taken 46 years, but in 1989 Brown found the mysterious man in the ME-109. Careful questioning of Stigler about details of the incident removed any doubt.
(L-R) German Ace Franz Stigler, artist Ernie Boyett, and B-17 pilot Charlie Brown.
Posted Image
Stigler, now 80 years old, had emigrated to Canada and was living near Vancouver, British Columbia. After an exchange of letters, Brown flew there for a reunion. The two men have visited each other frequently since that time and have appeared jointly before Canadian and American military audiences. The most recent appearance was at the annual Air Force Ball in Miami in September (1995), where the former foes were honored.
In his first letter to Brown, Stigler had written: “All these years, I wondered what happened to the B-17, did she make it or not?”
She made it, just barely. But why did the German not destroy his virtually defenseless enemy?
“I didn’t have the heart to finish off those brave men,” Stigler later said. I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do it. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute.”

Franz Stigler passed away on March 22, 2008.

Pat Dollard | Young Americans | Blog Archive » WWII Angel of Mercy Pilot Reunion-German Ace Let Badly Damaged B-17 Fly Home-Pilots Meet Years Later
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#17 Erich

Erich

    Alte Hase

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,429 posts

Posted 28 May 2008 - 08:41 PM

Stigler was a friend and I have several items signed by the man serving his Reichsverteidigung days in Jg 27 and alter as TO in 262 equipped JV 44

#18 macrusk

macrusk

    Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,713 posts

Posted 29 May 2008 - 06:12 AM

JC, we're starting to duplicate each other!! http://www.ww2f.com/...omber-crew.html

However, I do like seeing the extra photos you have in your post.;)
Regards, Michelle

Oliver Goldsmith, "I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines." :flag_canada_ww2: :flag_canada: :flag_uk:
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

#19 diddyriddick

diddyriddick

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 317 posts

Posted 29 May 2008 - 08:24 AM

Is it just me, or does Brown look just like Eli Manning in the wartime photo?
David

"It is history that teaches us to hope"
Robert E. Lee

#20 JCFalkenbergIII

JCFalkenbergIII

    Expert

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,479 posts

Posted 29 May 2008 - 01:09 PM

JC, we're starting to duplicate each other!! http://www.ww2f.com/...omber-crew.html

However, I do like seeing the extra photos you have in your post.;)


Oppsss my bad LOL. Well mine is a newerarticle and with the pics! :P :) :D LOL
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#21 C.Evans

C.Evans

    Expert

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,883 posts

Posted 29 May 2008 - 09:00 PM

Michelle, JC, you two are simply amazing at what you find for us to read. Thank you both for this great story.

Rest in Peace Herr Stigler. :salute:
Lost are only those, who abandon themselves) Hans-Ulrich Rudel.
:snoopy: :ww1ace:
Posted Image

#22 JCFalkenbergIII

JCFalkenbergIII

    Expert

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,479 posts

Posted 10 August 2008 - 07:20 PM

Luftwaffe pilot-turned-Canadian performed an act of amazing grace

Ordered into the skies to shoot down a damaged Allied bomber during the Second World War, he could not bring himself to open fire. It would be 43 years before he learned its fate


RAY EAGLE
Special to The Globe and Mail
April 18, 2008

VANCOUVER -- Franz Stigler of Surrey, B.C., was a German fighter pilot who committed one of the few documented acts of chivalry during air combat in the Second World War. In 1943, faced with shooting down a badly damaged U.S. bomber whose crew was obviously badly wounded men, he just couldn't pull the trigger and instead escorted the aircraft to safety.
Within a decade, Mr. Stigler had immigrated to Canada, but for years, he wondered whether the Boeing B-17 had made it back to Britain.
Born in Bavaria when the First World War was at its height, he was meant to be a pilot. His father had served as an observer in the German air force, and after the war, he encouraged his son to take an interest in flying. By the time he was 12, Franz had soloed in a glider.
He studied aeronautical engineering and took flying lessons. After qualifying, he flew several different types of aircraft. In 1939, he joined the fledgling Luftwaffe, and by Sept. 1 he was at war. Despite having flown multiengine aircraft, Mr. Stigler chose to fly fighters. On most of his combat missions, he flew the legendary Messerschmitt BF-109F, which, according to fighter pilots on both sides, had characteristics that were superior to the equally legendary Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane. Like most fighter pilots, he flew with several different squadrons and eventually commanded two, 8/11 and 12/IV Squadrons (or Jagdstaffels), which in turn were part of Jagdgeschwader 27, the equivalent of an Allied fighter wing.


In four years of operational flying, he served in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Holland and Germany. He was shot down 17 times and bailed out of aircraft four times, but otherwise managed to land or crash-land. His score was 28 confirmed aircraft shot down or badly damaged and more than 30 "probables." He flew a total of 417 combat missions from 1940 to 1945 and earned the Iron Cross Second Class, the Iron Cross First Class and the German Cross in Gold.
Although there were many German pilots with much higher scores, some claiming well in excess of a 100, it is doubtful that they survived as many critical situations. Mr. Stigler was wounded four times, suffered burns and sustained lifelong scars on his legs and head, among them a very visible forehead mark made by a bullet that came though the windshield of his fighter. Fortunately, the windshield slowed the bullet's velocity and it failed to penetrate his skull.
While stationed in the Mediterranean, his squadron was detailed to escort Stuka dive bombers targeting a shipping convoy. Each Me-109 carried a 225-kilogram bomb slung underneath and, having reached the target, they were instructed to dive and release the bomb as they pulled out. The idea was to make the bomb "skip" on the water and hit the ship's side. Mr. Stigler released his bomb and it bounced so well that it became airborne and kept pace just off his port wing. He climbed away as fast as he could.
By late 1943, he was posted in Holland at a base from where the Luftwaffe could best attack Allied aircraft on both the outward and return legs of bombing missions. The British and Canadians flew the four-engined Avro Lancasters and Short Sterlings, while the mainstay of the U.S. Army Air Force was the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
One of the Flying Fortresses was piloted by a 22-year-old lieutenant named Charlie Brown, from Western, W.V. On Dec. 20, 1943, Mr. Brown took off from his base at Kimbolton, near Cambridge, as part of a raid on the Focke-Wulf fighter plant at Bremen in Germany. It was only his second combat mission, and his first as captain. His B-17, with its equally young crew, had the whimsical name of "Ye Olde Pub." The plane reached the target without incident, dropped its bomb load and turned for home, only to suffer a direct hit from an anti-aircraft gun. The Plexiglass nose was shattered and two of the four engines were damaged. Unable to maintain his position within the formation, Mr. Brown dropped astern.
Eight German fighters appeared and pounced in an attack that damaged a third engine, destroyed most of the tail and knocked out the oxygen, hydraulic and electrical systems. The controls were only partly responsive, the rear gunner was dead and three other crew members were wounded. To make matters worse, Mr. Brown had been struck in the shoulder by flak.
Only half-conscious because of a lack of oxygen, he lost control and the plane inverted and spiralled down to within about 100 metres of the ground. Miraculously, he came to his senses and levelled out. He struggled to gain height and speed, but with only one engine at full power and one at half power, the aircraft was close to stalling. Three of his crew were unable to bail out, so his only options were to crash-land in enemy territory or try to make it back to England.
While struggling with the controls, he became aware of a lone Me-109 flying alongside. The B-17 had lumbered through the skies near a German airbase and the fighter had been sent up to finish it off. The German pilot circled around the B-17, came back to his original position and pointed towards the ground. Mr. Brown, still dazed, ignored the suggestion that he should attempt to land, and kept flying. The enemy pilot held position until the B-17 was over the North Sea and pointed in the direction of England. He waved, saluted and flew back toward to Holland.
Mr. Brown and his crew made it back to England and landed safely at Seething in Norfolk. The story of the encounter was immediately classified as secret, as it would not have gone over well for the public to know of a chivalrous enemy when they were exhorted to hate all Germans.

The pilot was Franz Stigler. When he closed on the bomber, preparing to shoot it down, he was astonished.
"I was amazed that the aircraft could fly," he told The Associated Press in 1997. "The B-17 is the most respected airplane. I flew within 12 yards. It was a wreck. The tail gunner was lying in blood ... holes all over."
The pilot, he noticed was also wounded and "his crew was running all up and down tending the wounded."
Mr. Stigler held his fire. He could not bring himself to attack a plane carrying dead and severely wounded crew. "It would be like shooting at a man in parachute," he said years later.
Back at base, he reported that he had successfully shot down the B-17 and that it had crashed into the sea. To admit the truth would have risked court-martial and very likely execution. "I couldn't tell anyone about it at home that I had let them go or I would have been looking down the barrels of a firing squad," he said.
Earlier in the day, he had already downed two other B-17s, and a third would have assured him the coveted Knight's Cross medal.
In 1953, Mr. Stigler emigrated to Canada - first to Montreal and then to British Columbia. He found work as a mechanic with a logging company in the Queen Charlotte Islands and later settled in Surrey, where he became operations manager for the truck division of Hertz. He than ran his own trucking company for several years, assisted by his wife, Hija.
Through the years, he never forgot the damaged B-17. He often mentioned the plane to Hija, and speculated about what had happened to the crew. For all he knew, it might have crashed into the sea on its own.
For 43 years, the riddle went unanswered and then a letter appeared in a newsletter for German fighter pilots, past and present. Charlie Brown, the American pilot, had submitted it on a hunch.
Mr. Brown had survived the war and remained in the U.S. Air force and served various staff roles before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. By 1986, he had settled in Florida and sometimes he thought about the enemy pilot who had given his crew a chance at survival. It was not until he attended a convention of the U.S. Air Force Association that year that a chance remark by a friend prompted him to act. He wrote to the newsletter, seeking information and describing the extraordinary 1943 incident over the North Sea.
Two months went by and finally a letter with a Canadian stamp arrived. The writer said his name was Franz Stigler, and that he was the pilot who had waved the B-17 on to England.
In the summer of 1990, the two men finally met at a hotel in Seattle. It was the first opportunity they had to pin down a time and place. A friendship immediately resulted, and eventually they toured together to tell their story at reunions and at special museum events. Not surprisingly, they found themselves celebrities among veterans and became the subjects of many articles in newspapers. Peter Gzowski, host of CBC's Morningside, was the first to interview them on radio.
For his part, Mr. Brown also found an unexpected release. In the long years since the war, he had suffered a recurring nightmare in which he was in an aircraft spiralling down toward trees and buildings. The dreams ceased the day he met Franz Stigler.

Once enemies, the two men became as close as brothers and talked on the phone almost every week. "For some reason, we really hit it off," Mr. Brown said.

FRANZ STIGLER
Franz Stigler was born Aug. 21, 1915, in Regensburg, Germany. He died March 22, 2008, in Surrey, B.C., of complications from surgery. He was 92. He is survived by wife Hija and daughter Jovita. Two earlier marriages ended in divorce. He is also survived by Charlie Brown of Perrine, Fla.
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#23 Skipper

Skipper

    Kommodore

  • ModeratorsOKF Moderator
  • 21,996 posts

Posted 10 August 2008 - 10:08 PM

RIP Mr Stigler. Your galant attitude will not be forgotten. :poppy:

Vorsicht+Feind.JPG


#24 Erich

Erich

    Alte Hase

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,429 posts

Posted 10 August 2008 - 10:56 PM

JC this was posted earlier with the painting done in honor of Stigler and the US B-17 crew.........

Stigler was a very interesting man and have several books signed by him. All I can say he was a very competent pilot serving in Afrika and the Reichsverteidigung

#25 JCFalkenbergIII

JCFalkenbergIII

    Expert

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,479 posts

Posted 10 August 2008 - 11:01 PM

Really? Must be in another thread as it doesn't show up in the similar threads section here.
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users