2nd Lt. Charlie Brown was a B-17F Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17F was called “Ye Olde 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. Most of the tail & half of the stabilizer were gone.
After flying over an enemy airfield, a pilot named Franz Stigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17F. 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 2nd Lt. Charlie Brown, Lt. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and bloodstained 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 remainder 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 postwar 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 2nd Lt. Charlie Brown lived in Seattle and Franz Stigler 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!