During WW II Charlie Brown was a pilot of a B-17F bomber who was trying to fly home after a successful mission targeting a German munition’s factory. After surviving the attack of 15 German planes with one killed and six wounded crew members as well as a battered plane, Charlie Brown was still hoping they were going to make it to the safety of Allied territory when he suddenly spotted a German plane flying so close to his that he could see the German pilot’s face. The American pilot thought that was the last moment of his life expecting the German to open fire on them but was amazed to see him make a salute instead. Brown was able to land safely and save the lives of all his crew.
The German pilot who let them fly away was named Franz Stigler, a very successful flying ace just one step away of receiving the Knight’s Cross which was the highest award made by Nazi Germany at the time. He later explained noticing how badly damaged the plane was as well as the covered in blood gunner and that’s when he decided he was going to follow his commanding officer’s rule and put honour first.
In 1987, approximately 40 years after the war has ended, Charlie Brown began looking for the German pilot putting an ad in a newsletter that was being spread among fighter pilots. His ad just stated that he was searching for ‘the man who saved his life on Dec 20 1943’. Stigler, who had moved to Vancouver, Canada unable to feel at home in Germany after the war, saw Brown’s ad and contacted him.
The two men met and both have later spoken of their getting together as of meeting a long lost family member. Both pilots died in 2008 just 6 months apart aged, respectively, 92 and 87. Their story has been told in the book ‘A Higher Call’.