Examples: [Collected via e-mail, March 2008]
Charlie Brown was a
After flying over an enemy airfield, a pilot named Franz Stigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the
Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the
Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn
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 incident, not even at post-war reunions.
They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 5 people who are alive now — all because Franz never fired his guns that day.
Research shows that Charlie Brown lived in Seattle and Franz Stigler had moved to Vancouver, BC after the war. When they finally met, they discovered they had lived less than
Origins: The basic framework of this tale about a memorable act of gallantry in wartime is true: In
Aside from pointing interested readers to a more comprehensive article covering these events (such as the one here), we don't have much to add other than noting that the shortened version of this tale which has circulated widely on the Internet (as reproduced in the "Example" block above) may include some fanciful embellishments intended to heighten the drama of the story:
After flying over an enemy airfield, a pilot named Franz Stigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the |
We couldn't find any account (including those to which the two pilots contributed) that stated German fighter ace Franz Stigler had been dispatched specifically to shoot down
Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn |
Again, no other account of this event we've found verified the claim that
Glancing out the cockpit window, Brown saw a German fighter plane, a Messerschmitt 109, flying alongside.
Still partially dazed, Lieutenant 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
Research shows that Charlie Brown lived in Seattle and Franz Stigler had moved to Vancouver, BC after the war. When they finally met, they discovered they had lived less than |
Brown and Stigler did finally find each other in 1989 (and eventually met) after Brown placed an advertisement in a newsletter and discovered that Stigler was living in Canada near Vancouver. However, every news article we've found describing the reunion mentioned that since his retirement from the Air Force in 1972, Brown had been living in Miami, not Seattle (which would have put him about
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 more than 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
Stigler, now 80, had emigrated to Canada and was living near Vancouver. 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 , where the former foes were honored.
In his first letter to Brown, Stigler had written: "All these years, I wondered what happened to the
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."
Last updated: 11 March 2009
Freedman, Wayne. It Takes More Than Good Looks (to Succeed at Television News Reporting). Santa Monica, CA: Bonus Books, 2003 ISBN 1-566-25188-5 (pp. 57-61). Frisbee, John L. "When an Enemy Was a Friend." Air Force Magazine. January 1997. Russell, James. "A Life in the Balance is Spared Aloft." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. 28 December 1995.