Articles by Dr. Barbara J. Young
There are many experiences recorded during wars, when, on opposite sides, Immortal DivineSpirits come together in destiny. There is a crossing, a recognition, a nod and each turned their separate ways. - Dr. Barbara Young
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.
When the B-17 flew over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Steigler was ordered to take off and shoot it down. When Steigler 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 had been killed. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere.
Despite having ammunition, Steigler 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. The German then escorted the stricken plane to the North Sea and pointed him towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Germany.
When Steiger landed, he told his German commanding officer that the plane had been shot down over the sea. He never told anyone what had happened. The American, Charlie Brown, and the remaining members of his crew, told the entire story at their debriefing after they landed in England. They were ordered never to speak about it.
More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved his crew. After years of research, he found Franz Seigler. Neither of them had ever talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.
Charlie Brown and Franz Seigler
They finally met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 group members who are still alive.
Charlie Brown lives in Seattle, and Franz Steigler had moved to Vancouver, BC after the war. They had lived less than 200 miles apart for the past 50 years.
The remaining crew of Ye Old Pub owed their lives to Franz, who never fired his guns that day.
Story source: www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories