Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

B-17 - Fantastic Story of Survival
Email ^ | Unknown | Unknown Patriot

Posted on 09/02/2012 8:54:46 AM PDT by Windflier

WWII B-17 Survival Story


B-17 "All American" (414th Squadron, 97BG) Crew
Pilot- Ken Bragg Jr.
Copilot- G. Boyd Jr.
Navigator- Harry C. Nuessle
Bombardier- Ralph Burbridge
Engineer- Joe C. James
Radio Operator- Paul A. Galloway
Ball Turret Gunner- Elton Conda
Waist Gunner- Michael Zuk
Tail Gunner- Sam T. Sarpolus
Ground Crew Chief- Hank Hyland


B-17 in 1943

A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943, between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area, became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II. An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron. When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunners turret.

Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew - miraculously! The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.

When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.

The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.

Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the empennage was waving like a fish tail and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.

Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.

When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.




TOPICS: History; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: aircraft; b17; boeing; godsgravesglyphs; worldwareleven; worldwarii; worldwartwo
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-85 next last
There are some things that are more than a sum of their pieces, better than the design, and perform far beyond what is expected. The M-1 rifle, the "Jeep" the "Deuce-and-a-Half", the C-47, the M1911, the Huey helicopter, and the B-17 are all on that list.
1 posted on 09/02/2012 8:54:55 AM PDT by Windflier
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Windflier

If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going. No Lancaster or Liberator could have survived that.


2 posted on 09/02/2012 9:07:24 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (The Democratic Party strongly supports full civil rights for necro-Americans!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Lonesome in Massachussets
If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going. No Lancaster or Liberator could have survived that.

I heard that. The Boeing B-17 was renowned for its ability to take massive punishment, and still get the crew home in one piece (if not itself).

It's absolutely my favorite WWII warbird.

3 posted on 09/02/2012 9:12:21 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

What an awesome account that I’d not heard of before and truly amazing photos. Thank you!


4 posted on 09/02/2012 9:12:38 AM PDT by Menehune56 ("Let them hate so long as they fear" (Oderint Dum Metuant), Lucius Accius (170 BC - 86 BC))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

What an awesome account that I’d not heard of before and truly amazing photos. Thank you!


5 posted on 09/02/2012 9:12:44 AM PDT by Menehune56 ("Let them hate so long as they fear" (Oderint Dum Metuant), Lucius Accius (170 BC - 86 BC))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Menehune56; ExTexasRedhead

You bet, Menehune. Glad you enjoyed it.

Hat tip to ExTexasRedhead.


6 posted on 09/02/2012 9:14:47 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Tigerized

WOW Ping.


7 posted on 09/02/2012 9:15:12 AM PDT by bootless ("If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth."~RWR)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Great story and pics, thanks!


8 posted on 09/02/2012 9:20:41 AM PDT by shove_it (purge pandering progressive parasites)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: shove_it
They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

That's true of a lot of things, but when we Americans put our minds to it, we can still 'build it better' than anyone else on the planet.

The Curiosity rover on Mars is one recent example.

9 posted on 09/02/2012 9:26:14 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Lonesome in Massachussets

If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going. No Lancaster or Liberator could have survived that................................................ Boeing built British bombers too, a little known fact.


10 posted on 09/02/2012 9:27:42 AM PDT by Bringbackthedraft (Who we elect is not as important as who they bring in with them.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

Where did this come from?

Impressive but I doubt it crossed the channel to the UK. More like somewhere back in N. Africa from the looks of the sand.


11 posted on 09/02/2012 9:29:29 AM PDT by Sequoyah101 (Half the people are below average, they voted for oblabla.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

Martin Caidin wrote a history of the B-17 that is absolutely fascinating. He tells the story of one B-17 that landed at its base in England. When the ground crew opened the hatch they found one of the door gunners badly wounded...and every other crewman, including both pilots, dead at their positions.


12 posted on 09/02/2012 9:31:08 AM PDT by Delhi Rebels (There was a row in Silver Street - the regiments was out.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

Where online can this article be found?

URL?


13 posted on 09/02/2012 9:33:26 AM PDT by KeyLargo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

I don’t know who did the write-up or when, but they didn’t know what they were talking about. This aircraft was damaged over the port of Tunis. That’s in Tunisia, on the coast of North Africa. They didn’t come from England and they certainly did not return there.

The 97th Bomb Group was reassigned from the 8th Air Force to the 12th Air Force in November, 1942. At the time of this mission, they were stationed in Algeria, and the damaged aircraft returned to their base after the collision. Take a look at the pictures, not exactly the English countryside.


14 posted on 09/02/2012 9:34:56 AM PDT by centurion316
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Windflier
Most beatiful plane ever built. Stories of their ruggedness and strength are eclipsed only by the men who crewed them.

This crew was involved in the famous "Piggy Back" incident on December 31, 1944.

Bill Lawley, Walter Truemper, and Archibald Mathies

David R. Kingsley
15 posted on 09/02/2012 9:35:17 AM PDT by 2sheds
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Sequoyah101
"More like somewhere back in N. Africa from the looks of the sand."

Most likely Libya.

16 posted on 09/02/2012 9:39:21 AM PDT by davisfh
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Windflier
The B-17 is one of my all time favorite aircraft. All most
indestructible. Well known for bringing its crew back home
in spite of damage that would have brought down lesser airplanes.

This story is also well known. They think the German fighter
pilot was already dead, killed by a B-17 gunner, when he
crashed into the B-17.

But there are a couple of things wrong with this account.

1. The 97th Bomb Group was based in North Africa at that
time, not England. Their base was in Algeria or Libya.
Still a great feat of airman ship to get her home.

2. The photograph was most likely taken from another B-17,
not a escorting P-51 fighter. P-51’s did not start flying
escort until 1944.

Still a great story.

Mike

17 posted on 09/02/2012 9:42:05 AM PDT by doublecansiter (without cartridge, load in nine times, LOAD!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Sequoyah101
Where did this come from?

Did you miss the header up top?

Impressive but I doubt it crossed the channel to the UK. More like somewhere back in N. Africa from the looks of the sand.

You could be right. England is a long, long way from Tunisia.

18 posted on 09/02/2012 9:49:58 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: KeyLargo
Where online can this article be found? URL?

If I knew that, I would have posted it. I got this in email, as indicated on the header up top. I'd like to know too, if anyone knows the source.

19 posted on 09/02/2012 9:52:00 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Sequoyah101
This was their base:

Chateau-dun-du-Rhumel Airfield From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Part of Twelfth Air Force 97th BG 414bs Sweet Chariot.jpg Gen. Jimmy Doolittle awards the Purple Heart to the aircrew of Boeing B-17E Fortress 41-9021 ‘Sweet Chariot’ at Chateau-dun-du-Rhumel Airfield, Algeria, July 1943.

Type Military Airfield Coordinates 36°08′39″N 006°07′53″E Built 1942 In use 1942–1943 Controlled by United States Army Air Forces Chateau-dun-du-Rhumel Airfield is located in Algeria

Chateau-dun-du-Rhumel (Chateaudun Du Rhumel) Airfield is an abandoned military airfield in Algeria, located about 6 km north-northwest of Chelghoum el Aid, in Mila province, about 47 km southwest of Constantine.

During World War II it was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force during the North African Campaign against the German Afrika Korps. The airfield was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and its primary use was that of a heavy bomber airfield, with concrete runways, hardstands and taxiways. Billeting and support facilities consisted of tents. The 2d Bomb Group and the 97th Bomb Group were the primary tenants at the airfield, both flying B-17 Flying Fortresses missions over targets in Italy; Tunisia; Sicily and Sardinia. The 1st Fighter Group flew escort for the Fortresses, as well as attacking enemy ground targets of opportunity.

Known units assigned to the airfield were: HQ 5th Bombardment Wing, March– August 1943 HQ 7th Fighter Wing (later 47th Bombardment Wing), 11 January – 1 March 1943 2d Bombardment Group, 27 April- – 7 June 1943, B-17 Flying Fortress 97th Bombardment Group, 8 February – 1 August 1943, B-17 Flying Fortress 1st Fighter Group, February – 29 June 1943, P-38 Lightning

When the Americans moved out in late 1943, the airfield was dismantled and abandoned. Today, there is almost no evidence of its existence, as the land has returned to agricultural use. Faint outlines of dispersal pads, runways and taxiways can be seen in aerial photography, and there may be a number of agricultural buildings on a former concreted aircraft parking/maintenance area to the south of the field.

20 posted on 09/02/2012 9:53:07 AM PDT by KeyLargo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: centurion316
This aircraft was damaged over the port of Tunis. That’s in Tunisia, on the coast of North Africa. They didn’t come from England and they certainly did not return there.

I hadn't noticed that until someone pointed it out upthread. I've got to agree. That one element of the story can't possibly be correct, although I don't think it detracts from the meat of the report.

The Boeing B-17 is still one of the toughest war birds ever built.

21 posted on 09/02/2012 9:56:14 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Bringbackthedraft

I don’t think it was a question of workmanship as much as design. A lot of American World War II aircraft were sledgehammers, the P-47, the F-6 Hellcat, all the Boeing bombers. The Lancaster was mostly used for night bombing for a reason, they simply would not have survived daytime flying over Germany.

The Lancaster was an impressive weapon and superbly flown and employed, but it was nowhere near as rugged as the B-17.


22 posted on 09/02/2012 9:59:31 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (The Democratic Party strongly supports full civil rights for necro-Americans!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Delhi Rebels
I've got a book by Caidin titled “Black Friday” about the
raids on the ball bearing plants at Schwinefurt.

In that book there is a account of a B-17 landing in England
with no crew aboard. It touched down near a British AA battery.
The first people to access the aircraft got the engines shut
down by trial and error. And while in the plane noticed that
what they thought to be parachutes still in the plane. Turns
out that what they thought to be parachutes were actually
protective bags for the chest type chutes. The crew had bailed
out over the channel with the auto pilot on. The engines
were not making enough power for them to get home so they
bailed. I guess that the engines either picked back up again
or the reduced weight, the crew having left the airplane was
just enough for the plane to get back to England, by itself.

Mike

23 posted on 09/02/2012 10:01:42 AM PDT by doublecansiter (without cartridge, load in nine times, LOAD!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: 2sheds
Most beatiful plane ever built.

I heartily agree. I've loved that plane since I was a kid. It's still number one in my book.




24 posted on 09/02/2012 10:04:12 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: doublecansiter
The 97th Bomb Group was based in North Africa at that time, not England. Their base was in Algeria or Libya. Still a great feat of airman ship to get her home.

Thanks for adding that clarification to the story, DC. Much appreciated.

25 posted on 09/02/2012 10:06:31 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Sequoyah101
I googled the pilot of the plane (Lt Kendrick R. Bragg). The story has been embellished over the years, it did happen. But they did not fly back to England, they flew back to Biskra Algeria
26 posted on 09/02/2012 10:07:08 AM PDT by Bruce Kurtz
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: doublecansiter

It seems I was off a day on the book title. It is Actually
titled “Black Thursday”.

Mike


27 posted on 09/02/2012 10:09:03 AM PDT by doublecansiter (without cartridge, load in nine times, LOAD!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: Windflier; SeraphimApprentice; zot; Interesting Times

Windflier, thank you for posting this.


28 posted on 09/02/2012 10:14:48 AM PDT by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

You are welcome. Thank you for posting the pictures of
Aluminum Overcast!

Can’t have a B-17 thread without pictures.

Mike


29 posted on 09/02/2012 10:20:04 AM PDT by doublecansiter (without cartridge, load in nine times, LOAD!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: GreyFriar
thank you for posting this.

You bet, GF. My pleasure.

30 posted on 09/02/2012 10:22:44 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: centurion316

http://usmilnet.com/smf/index.php?topic=11523.0;wap2

Is a more plausible account. BTW, I believe that the B-17 owned by the Collings Foundation, of Stow MA (about 10 miles from where I sit) is another B-17, renamed and renumbered in honor of this veteran, not the same airframe.

The B-17 waist gunner also acted as photographer and was supposed to take pictures of anything interesting that he saw.

BTW, this waistgunner http://www.harvardpress.com/DesktopModules/DnnForge%20-%20NewsArticles/Print.aspx?tabid=2190&tabmoduleid=7735&articleId=8853&moduleId=3353&PortalID=0

saw an FW-190 fly in formation with his B-17 on his first mission, he snapped a picture of it, then proceeded to shoot it down. A strange war.


31 posted on 09/02/2012 10:27:10 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (The Democratic Party strongly supports full civil rights for necro-Americans!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: doublecansiter
Can’t have a B-17 thread without pictures.

Yeah, I noticed that there wasn't much in the way of eye candy on the thread, so I grabbed those two shots from my bookmarks.



32 posted on 09/02/2012 10:28:50 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 29 | View Replies]

To: Windflier
Incredible story! I can't help but wonder if Steven Spielberg used it as the basis for his episode of "Amazing Stories" - "The Mission" (1985) -- which also featured a damaged B-17 and a trapped tail gunner.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0511124/

33 posted on 09/02/2012 10:28:58 AM PDT by thecodont
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Windflier
The turn back toward England

England? One would think that a bomber damaged over Tunis wold have flown to a base in Malta, Algeria or Libya.

34 posted on 09/02/2012 10:35:46 AM PDT by Fiji Hill (Deo Vindice!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Fiji Hill
England? One would think that a bomber damaged over Tunis wold have flown to a base in Malta, Algeria or Libya.

Yet another astute observer. That inconsistency got sorted out on the thread.

35 posted on 09/02/2012 10:44:34 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 34 | View Replies]

To: Windflier
Wow. Methinks a miracle.

Don't know why, but this reminded of a Twilight Zone episode (ball gunner, no landing gear).

5.56mm

36 posted on 09/02/2012 10:45:59 AM PDT by M Kehoe
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Lonesome in Massachussets

Yes, a much better account. The mission logs of the 97th BG show that the mission of 31 Jan 43 was to Bizerti, and the mission of 1 Feb 43 was to Tunis.


37 posted on 09/02/2012 10:56:52 AM PDT by centurion316
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 31 | View Replies]

To: M Kehoe
...this reminded of a Twilight Zone episode (ball gunner, no landing gear).

Right. I remember that television short. I think Steven Spielberg produced it. What a story.



38 posted on 09/02/2012 11:00:11 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

Agree, still a remarkable story.


39 posted on 09/02/2012 11:00:46 AM PDT by centurion316
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: All

40 posted on 09/02/2012 11:05:19 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 38 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

My Dad’s neighbor, in Syracuse, a few years older than Dad, enlisted, after Pearl. The story I was told; as a B-17 Top Gunner (position behind the cockpit), during one mission, he bent down to pick up his dropped cigarette. While he was bent over, the plexiglass dome was blown to bits. One of those cases where smoking doesn’t kill ;)


41 posted on 09/02/2012 11:08:17 AM PDT by jttpwalsh
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: All


More B-17 eye candy here: Aluminum Overcast


42 posted on 09/02/2012 11:09:57 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 40 | View Replies]

To: Windflier
I love the B-17--my relative was a B-17 flight engineer/top turret gunner. I don't know how many crews and ships he went through, but the B-17s brought him home safely many times.

We also have to pay great homage to the B-24s and B-25s. B-24s could become flaming coffins fairly quickly, and B-25s were like tough little flyweight prize fighters.

God bless all the crews.
43 posted on 09/02/2012 11:11:36 AM PDT by righttackle44 (I may not be much, but I raised a United States Marine.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: jttpwalsh
...a B-17 Top Gunner (position behind the cockpit), during one mission, he bent down to pick up his dropped cigarette. While he was bent over, the plexiglass dome was blown to bits.

I'd be willing to bet that he kept a piece of that broken plexiglas for good luck!

44 posted on 09/02/2012 11:13:06 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 41 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

I sure hope so ! :)


45 posted on 09/02/2012 11:15:40 AM PDT by jttpwalsh
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 44 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

Here:.....http://www.secondworldwar.org.uk/b17pub.html


46 posted on 09/02/2012 11:20:01 AM PDT by csmusaret (I will give Obama credit for one thing- he is living proof that familiarity breeds contempt.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: centurion316

I saw that pic when I was in grade school & the caption said that the ME-109 pilot was already dead before it hit the B-17.

But I also heard accounts of German pilots ramming B-17s and intending to survive, and did so.

And did the military archbishop of U.S. forces declare that if we were invaded, American fighter pilots who rammed enemy planes would not be committing suicide?


47 posted on 09/02/2012 11:29:40 AM PDT by elcid1970 (Nuke Mecca now. Death to Islam means freedom for all mankind. Deus vult!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: All


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!

In his first letter to Brown, Stigler had written: "All these years, I wondered what happened to the B-17, did she make it or not?"

She made it, just barely. But why did the German not destroy his virtually defenseless enemy?

"I didn't have the heart to finish off those brave men," Stigler later said. "I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do it. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute."

Sadly Franz Stigler passed away on 22 March 2008. Charlie Brown passed away on 24 November 2008.


48 posted on 09/02/2012 11:32:17 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 44 | View Replies]

To: csmusaret

Funny. I just posted the harrowing tale of the B-17, ‘Ye Old Pub’, and then come back to the thread and see that you posted the link. Great minds and all that :-)


49 posted on 09/02/2012 11:39:34 AM PDT by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 46 | View Replies]

To: Windflier

So true.This bird was repaired and put back in service and you just cant do that to a lanc or a lib.


50 posted on 09/02/2012 11:45:19 AM PDT by HANG THE EXPENSE (Life's tough.It's tougher when you're stupid.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-85 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson