Friends from Enemies
One remarkable story shows how friendship is a powerful human force that can happen even in war. On December 20, 1943, 2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown was piloting a B-17 bomber named Ye Old Pub. Brown and his fellow American flight crew were returning to England from a bombing mission over Germany. Unfortunately, Ye Old Pub’s engines had been damaged on the approach to its target.
The bomber was forced to leave the safety of its formation with the other American bombers. It was soon flying alone over Germany. Ye Old Pub was vulnerable to attacks from enemy fighter planes. German aircraft soon tried to shoot down the crippled bomber and hit many of its vital systems. The plane was heavily damaged. Most of the American crewmen were injured from the fighter attacks.
A German pilot named Franz Stigler spotted the damaged American bomber from the ground. He departed in his fighter plane. Flying alongside Ye Old Pub, he spotted the wounded Americans in their plane. Instead of shooting down the enemy bomber, however, Stigler tried to help them. Using hand signals to communicate, he told them to land in Germany. Brown turned down the idea. Finally, Stigler decided to fly with the bomber and protect it until it got near home. Brown and his men landed in England. Stigler flew back to Germany. He didn’t tell his superiors about what had happened because he might be arrested or killed.
After the war, the two men met again in peacetime. Stigler had moved to Canada in the 1950s and Brown was in America. Over the years, Mr. Brown wrote many letters, hoping to locate Stigler. Brown finally received a reply from him in 1990. They soon met and became best friends. It was a true friendship made in the skies.