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This Months Specials

VetNet Headlines
July 27, 2010
09/21/07 8:30 am

A B-17 War Story

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 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 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 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.
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!

DL
Private I
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Visitor Comments
to the person who thinks this is disney or hollywood please remember that the germans were very proficent with records dates and time. it would be easy to find location after being briefed, units of the luftwaffe,pilots, ect. after the war we had manypeople working on figuring out things like this records were available on both sides . so date, time, flight logs ect. it takes some doing, but facts can be found.
Any way of learning about the crew, my brother was a ball turrent gunner on a b-17 out of England.blissful0429@cox.net
What a special touch of humanity!
it took a lot of balls to get in a b17 and do what these men did.franz knew this being a pilot himself, and decided to let the bomber go.there is no glory kicking a downed man. awesome story. may both men be at peace.
Love this article. Heard that they became such close friends and one of them did the ulegy at the others funeral. Both have died apparently
I tend to belive this account since Franz Steigler reported to his CO that the B-17 was down in the sea while the B-17 crew said nothing to endanger Steigler in any way.
there is good in everyone,warriors respect
If Charlie Brown was scared and had no idea where he was going, how did he find an airfield to land at in England? Would love to see the real briefing at the unknown airfield in England.
I have just come back from an ANZAC Day memorial service in Mylor. And read about this article afterwards in the Mylor Hall where there had been a lot of memorabilia. I thought what a wonderful story and for Franz to do that. After reading visitor comments here, I DO HOPE that this is a true story. An wonderful and amazing thing to happen.
A friend of mine heard this story directly from Herr Steigler and Mr. Brown...If it were from anyone else that I heard this, I would not have believed it!
Wonderful story. I am going to use it for my next school assembly.

Pete Archer
Re the gun camera question. Obviously the B-17 is an F model- no chin turret. And, if the painting is accurate, the event occurred in 1943 before the 8th Air Force adopted the tail painting identification of triangle, square and circle to designate the three Air Divisions and Bomb Groups. Lew Warden, 96th BG 1943-44, Santa Maria, CA.
Whether the story is true or not, something to point out to those who are wondering \"Who is the third pilot that took the picture?\"... it is a painting!
I think the story is true, Brown probably made a note of the German numbers on the plane and later found out who the pilot had been. It would have been easy to set up the picture. I can see Franz feelings of shooting down a bunch of wounded soldiers, even if they were enemy soldiers, the man had a heart, that's all.
I've spent hours and hours trying to authenticate this story; trying to find the "original" story or telling of it. My best find was a reference to these two men at a North Carolina computer game promotion; Franz Steigler was quoted as saying that the two were involved in an air battle over Germany. Link is here:http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2000_June_23/ai_62890597 and you read there is no ref to the fluff of the 2006/07 verbatim repeated articles. I think some fiction writer was indulging herself.
I've seen all of Wooten's work and I never seen a 17 in any of them also, who was the 3rd plane to take this photo and in color at that...This story is hard to beleive..
This event was commemorated in a painting by Micheal W. Wooten and published by Military Graphics of Birmingham, Al. It's a limited edition of 1000 prints. I do not know if any are still available. I bought mine (#445) about 9 years ago in a fine arts craft shop in Springville, Al.preserve fact
Who took the photo?
We are B-17 LOVERS !! This is an awesome story. Franz was a real MAN, not very many like him now days. It took a really big man to do what he did, thank you Franz !! Charlie, and Franz, you are 2 awesome , big men.
Are the 8th AF records of the debriefing declassified? I'd like to be able to repeat the story on museums tours, but don't want to say, "I saw it on the internet."

silverz4@earthlink.net
Beautiful Story. Are either or both of them still alive.
Ruby
Is this a true story?
Is it copyrighted?
Here's the AFA's story on this. Not an exact match, but still a good read: http://www.afa.org/magazine/valor/0197valor.asp
FANTASTIC... That german deserves a lot of credit and recognition from the US !! I would love to salute that man..!!
Sergeant Major ..US ARMY, Retired
If Charlie Brown didn't know where he was or who the pilot of the German plane was ... & Steigler reported to his boss that the B-17 was downed & never said otherwise ... how in the world did Charlie Brown narrow down that the German pilot was Steigler ... out of the entire universe of German pilots stationed somewhere in Europe who flew that day? Absent clarification, Disney wrote this story ... it's just appears Hollywood & contrived.
I like to think that Franz had Christian charity that caused him to do this noble action.I would like to think that if I were in the same situation,I would perform as Franz did that day.
Truly inspirational. Reminds one of the Christmas Truce in WW 1 when the commanders of both sides were furious that "enemies" could be friends because the could not shoot at each other at Christmas. And the futility of it all.
Russ Saunders
Martinez, Ca
A fasinating story however, if Franz's fighter had a functioning gun camera that day, how did he avoid detection of his false clarimed kill of the B-17?
one good german