edited: Wednesday, September 12, 2007
By Butch Howard
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, September 10, 2007
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To learn about an unexpected act of human kindness and mercy towards an enemy, particularly in the midst of battle, shows a rare and beautiful glimpse into the inherent goodness contained in the heart of a warrior. The term I think best describes what happened here and what did not happen is grace.
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 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 incident, not even at post-war reunions.
They met in the 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!!
story contributed by Civic Centre, Bedford
'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar
Web Site: Grace
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|Reviewed by Taylor Ryan
|Well nice to see you back here at AD, Butch...and in a newsworthy vein at that. You've handled it quite well.
I really want to share this article with my son. Curious if his love of military history and aircraft has brought this one near and dear before. What a redeeming story you relate. Certainly one that nudges our faith and hope in humanity. It would really be interesting to find similar stories out there and compile them into an uplifting collection and a valuable reminder of the good that truly exists in man.
Have you ever written for the press before? Really great style here. Don't stay away so long! Look who's talking, the ever sporadic poet.
|Reviewed by D Johnson
|Butch, what an awesome write and that picture is just phenominal. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were more Franz's in war?
|Reviewed by Lydia Shutter (Reader)
|I have goosebumps from this story, Butch. This proves that even in war, a little compassion goes such a long way. Thank you very much for sharing this with us. There is a little bit of good in every human being. Lydia|