I decided to put this in Aviation because it relates to an American B-17 and German Me109 in 1943. A truly amazing story.
On December 20, 1943 American B-17 pilot Charlie Brown (yes his real name), was one of the pilots of a B-17 on a bombing mission over Germany. The
aircraft had been shot up badly, after having been attacked by no less than 15 German fighters, and of the crew, one was dead, six were wounded. The
three unwounded crew members were tending to injuries in the fuselage, while 2nd Lt. Brown flew the aircraft. He had been knocked out during the
attacks, and had woken up just in time to pull the plane out of a near fatal nose dive.
The bomber had one working engine, the tail turret was gone, most of the left stabilizer was gone, there was a hole all the way through the fuselage,
as well as other damage. Lt. Brown was struggling to keep the plane flying, when one of the crew members came to tell him they had decided to stay,
and assist with getting the wounded aircraft back to England.
Lt. Brown was staring past the crew member in horror, as there was now a German Me109 flying alongside the wounded B-17. Then the Messerschmidt moved
over to the left side of the bomber, and the pilot began making exaggerated gestures, first toward the ground, then off into the distance.
The Me109 flew alongside the bomber, without firing a shot, until the top turret of the bomber turned towards it. Then the pilot of the Me109 looked
Lt. Brown in the eye, saluted and flew off without firing a shot.
The Me109 pilot was Franz Stigler, a conscripted Luftwaffe pilot. He had been a commercial pilot, before joining the Luftwaffe as a fighter pilot.
Before takeoff on his first mission, his commanding officer had a talk with him, and told him "Honor is everything here. If I ever see or hear of
you firing at a man in a parachute, I'll shoot you down myself."
On the day of this incident, he was sitting in his aircraft refueling and rearming, when they heard a roar, and saw the B-17 go overhead. He
immediately took off, and chased what was going to be his 23rd kill, and get him the Iron Cross.
Upon closing with the B-17, and lining his shot up, it occurred to him that he hadn't seen any twinkling from the tail, which would indicate that the
tail guns were firing. He took a closer look, and saw the tail turret had been shot away. The tail gunner was still there, with his jacket covered
in blood, and bloody icicles on the guns themselves. He went on to observe major damage to the tailplane, flew alongside, and could see into the
fuselage, and see the crew struggling with the wounded. Upon flying up alongside the cockpit, he could see the nose had been shot away as well, and
was stunned that the aircraft was still flying.
He thought about a woman that had been shot and killed for making a joke against the Nazi Party, and realized he could be executed for not destroying
the bomber. He chose to listen to his commanding officer and do what was right.
As they neared the Atlantic Wall, antiaircraft gun crews were stunned to see an American and German plane flying in formation together. Franz Stigler
pulled away before the crews could identify his plane, as at this point, Lt. Brown snapped out of his terror, and ordered the gunner to open fire.
The B-17 went on to land in England, and years later both men met, first through an ad in a pilot newsletter, then over the phone, and eventually in
person. Both men died within six months of each other, and considered the other a brother for the events of that day.
The Full Story