Vintage | Uplifting | Good Deeds

They Were Supposed To Be Enemies, But This Pilot's Rescue Made Him Their Hero Instead

jenobr / Imgur

It's incredible to think that even under the worst circumstances imaginable, the good in people's hearts can still shine through.

That's what happened on a cold December day in 1943 when American pilot 2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown was flying his B-17 bomber over Germany. Brown's mission was to destroy a German aircraft factory, but things went bad quickly.

2nd Lieutenant Charlie BrownCNN

Germans on the ground tore apart the bomber, which was nicknamed "Ye Olde Pub," turning it into a flying scrap heap. One engine was totally destroyed, while another was badly damaged. To make things worse, the plane's nose was full of holes, letting -76 degree air whistle through the cabin.

Ye Olde Pub after the attack.USAF

The attack injured Brown and left one of his crew members dead, while their first aid kit was frozen and mostly useless. To top all that off, the plane's radio was broken, its machine guns were almost all frozen and their compass was malfunctioning, so they were actually flying further into enemy territory.

This was the state things were in when a the bomber was attacked by fighter planes. Miraculously, the Pub survived a 10 minute onslaught before the planes finally moved on - probably because they assumed the bomber was already doomed.

As if things couldn't get any worse, an Ace fighter pilot named Franz Stigler pulled up alongside the plane, with orders to shoot it down. But Stigler had something else in mind.

Learn what happened next on the second page!

Stigler already had 29 kills under his belt, which meant shooting down the pub would earn him the prestigious Knight's Cross, the German Medal of Honor.

But seeing the Pub up close, Stigler felt attacking the plane down would be as cruel as shooting down a man in a parachute. Instead, he pulled up alongside the Pub's cockpit and got Brown's attention.

With the German plane so close to the bomber, no one on the ground dared to attack it. Stigler directed the plane to turn around and escorted them back into their own airspace before saluting Brown and turning back for home.

The plane's tail section was almost completely ripped off by the time the Pub landed in England.39-45 War

Brown managed to get the Pub safely back to England, where he told his crew to keep the story a secret, worrying that "humanizing" the enemy could put more lives at risk.

It wasn't until years later that Brown tried to track down the pilot who saved his life that day, sending letters to military branches and pilots' associations to find him.

It turns out Stigler had moved to Canada after the war and become a successful businessman. News of Brown's search reached him and the two men finally connected, almost 50 years later.

After meeting in person at a pilot's reunion, Brown and Stigler stayed close friends until they both died in 2008. While their incredible story was a secret for decades, it's finally being adapted into a movie - and we can't wait to see it on the big screen!

Share this inspiring true story with someone you know!

[H/T: Jenobr]