Today is Veterans Day, and I would like to pay due respect to all Zero Hedge readers who are in active service or are veterans, including my parents.
The following was originally related to me by my father who served in the USAF. It is an amazing story. It bears repeating simply because it is one of many stories that should not be forgotten.
I know he loves this story, so here it is for those of you who have never heard it.
We live in a time when we are constantly being strafed and bombarded with news of the despicable behavior of those who seem truly lacking in the kind of honor and character exemplified by these men.
It is a welcome breath of fresh air.
An Artist's rendering. Note the dead engine, obliterated nose and tail sections.
AN ACT OF CHIVALRY IN WORLD WAR II
On December 20, 1943, the 379th Bomb Group (H) of the Eighth Bomber Command (U.S. Eighth Air Force) attacked Bremen, Germany. During that attack, Lt. Charles Brown from Weston, West Virginia, flying B-17F number 42-3167, witnessed an extraordinary act of chivalry by Franz Stiegler, the pilot of a Bf-109, who had taken off to attack him.
As Brown guided his B-17, Ye Olde Pub, toward the target, an aircraft factory, it was buffeted by flak. "Suddenly," he later recounted, "the nose of the B-17 was mangled by flak. Then three of the four engines were damaged. The entire left stabilizer and left elevator were gone, ninety percent of the rudder was gone, and part of the top of the vertical stabilizer was gone. I quickly pulled out of formation so we wouldn't damage our other planes if we exploded.
It didn't take long for the Germans to pounce on us. Eight fighters came at us from the front and seven more from the rear and we were in no condition to fight them off. I headed straight at one of them. I had given up. I really didn't think we would get through this one. I had the plane in a tightening circle when I blacked out. Our oxygen system had been shot up."
Brown's plane then plunged from 25,000 feet to 200 feet at which point he regained consciousness. Incredibly, Ye Olde Pub was flying straight and level directly over a German airfield. At that moment, Oberleutenant (1Lt) Franz Stiegler, who had been on the ground reloading his guns, spotted Brown's mortally wounded aircraft. He leaped into his Bf-109 and took off in pursuit. Eager to score a kill, Stiegler closed in from the rear to within ten feet of the B-17.
As Stiegler described the encounter, "The B-17 was like a sieve. There was blood everywhere. I could see the crew trying to help their wounded. The tail gunner was slumped over his gun, his blood streaming down its barrel. Through the gaping hole in the fuselage, I could see crewmen working frantically to save a comrade whose leg was blown off. I thought to myself, 'How can I shoot something like that? It would be like shooting a man in a parachute.'
When I was flying in North Africa, my commander said, 'You are a fighter pilot. If I ever hear of you shooting someone in a parachute, I'll shoot you myself.'"
Stiegler then flew wingtip-to-wingtip with the crippled bomber, close enough for the two enemies to see each other clearly. The German pilot escorted the struggling B-17 to the North Sea. Then, to Brown's amazement, he saluted, put his plane into a crisp roll and flew away, allowing Brown to make it back to a British airfield.
On board the B-17 were Brown and nine other crewmen, four of whom were wounded and one was dead. Brown had a bullet in his right shoulder but it was not discovered until 40 years later.
Stiegler, who was shot down 17 times, is one of only 1,200 of Germany's 30,000 fighter pilots to survive the war. During the war, he shot down 28 aircraft. Originally from Regensburg, Bavaria, he now [lives] in Canada.
Years later, while attending a meeting of the American Pilots Association, Brown was asked if anything interesting had happened to him in the war. He replied, "I think I was saluted by a German Luftwaffe pilot one time.
Brown had not thought about this for years, but subsequently began to search for the German pilot. With the assistance of Lt Gen Adolf Galland he made an inquiry via the German Fighter Pilots Association and Stiegler responded. The two men eventually met in Seattle. On December 20, before encountering Brown, Stiegler had already shot down two B-17s. For a third, he would have been awarded the Knights Cross. Had the German Military discovered that he had let Brown's aircraft escape, he would have been court-martialed and shot.
[Source: Travis Air Museum News]
BF109 PILOT FRANZ STIEGLER B17 PILOT CHARLIE BROWN
Both men passed away in 2008.
For a detailed report: Steigler/Brown
And here is a short Veteran's Day salutation for all those Scion of Swindle out there...