When one looks carefully at the B-17 and note how shot up it is - one engine dead, tail, horizontal stabilizer and nose shot up.....you say to yourself did the crew ever make it back?
This painting was the result of an artist’s depiction, from the description of those B-17 pilots, many years later. Also in the painting is a German ME-109 fighter flying next to it.
As this true story goes, Captain Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress for the 379th Bomber Group out of Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called 'Ye Old 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.
The B-17 crew was aware that they had no idea where they were going, The ME-109 pilot Franz Stigler waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz was German Fighter Ace Franz Stigler no less, and he would escort and guided the stricken B-17 and its crew to, and slightly over, the North Sea towards England . Franz then saluted Captain Brown and turned away, back to Europe.
When Franz landed back in Germany he told his CO that the B-17 had been shot down over the North Sea, and never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown and the remaining 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 post-war 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.
(L-R) German Ace Franz Stigler, artist Ernie Boyett, and B-17 pilot Charlie Brown. click on image to see a larger sized version.