B-17 War Story

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by GeorgeMaciver, Oct 28, 2007.

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  1. Can anyone verify this story? It's a wonderful story but before I pass it on I'd like it verified if possible.


    Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton , En gland . 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 1 80 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.

  2. Yes its true, it was the most badly damaged B-17 to get back to Blighty.
  3. Thanks! It's quite something.
  4. What a story. Good for the Herman.
  5. The reason the German kept quiet, he actually didnt tell anyone about this, is because it was a court martial offense NOT to shoot down a damaged plane, and he didnt fancy being shot (which was the usual punishment)

  6. A German with common sense! :D
  7. Just found these two piccies of the pilots.


  8. Actually the German Pilot, had shot down or helped to shoot down other B-17s. However its nice to see a sense of fair play once
  9. Not common sense. Just a shread of humanity. The aircraft was defenceless, some people, even Germans, didn't see that as a fair fight, even in war.
  10. There is a similar story concerning an RAF bomber. From around 1943, increasing numbers of Luftwaffe nightfighters were being equipped with the upward firing 'Schrage Musik' cannon. This weapon quickly became the preferred method to dispatch RAF heavy bombers at night. The Luftwaffe crew would simply formate underneath a bomber and dispatch the target with a short burst at close range. As ventral armament had been removed from RAF Lancasters, Halifax and Stirlings early in the campaign, this avoided the gunners' arc of fire and allowed the nightfighter to formate safely in the RAF aircraft's blind spot with alarming ease.

    Experienced pilots would sometimes demonstrate the process of holding formation on RAF bombers to junior pilots or crewmembers prior to dispatching the 'terrorflieger'. There is an account of one such demonstration where a Luftwaffe 'experten' intercepted an RAF Lancaster over Holland returning from a raid. After holding formation underneath the bomber to discuss the best location to aim for (normally between the fuselage and number 2 engine) for several minutes, it was decided to destroy the aircraft. By this time, the bomber had crossed the Dutch coast and the first faint traces of dawn were visible to the east.

    One crewmember commented that the 'Tommy' was probably starting to relax and was possibly looking forward to getting back home. Another then wondered aloud if any of the RAF crew had a wife and young children like him. It then fell silent on the nightfighter for a few long seconds before the Luftwaffe pilot silently turned for home, leaving the RAF crew to continue home in ignorance of the narrow escape they had experienced.

    Given the emotions raised in Germany regarding the Allied bombing campaign, and the enormous numbers of aircrew lost from both sides, I found that story very poignant when I read it.