There are war stories, and then there are war stories. This is the latter.
December 20th, 1943, a young bomber pilot named Charlie Brown (yup) was behind the stick of a B-17F, dubbed “Ye Old Pub”, on his first mission. He and his crew were on the dreaded left flank of the formation, the “Purple Heart” corner, when the Messerschmitts came.
His aircraft was badly damaged. Charlie was wounded. After a momentary black-out, Charlie recovered the aircraft.
As Charlie attempted to limp the bird back to England, he caught the attention of Franz Stigler. Stigler approached the lone bomber in his ME 109 and saw the tail gunner’s barrels hanging limp.
He flew cautiously up alongside of the cockpit and motioned to the injured pilot. He flew with the damaged American aircraft out over the channel, until he thought it unsafe to continue. He saluted Charlie and turned back.
For years Charlie searched his fractured memory of the incident. He put ads in German pilot publications about the incident until, one day, he received a response.
Today, Charlie and Franz are closer than brothers.