Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Honor

Painting by John D. Shaw/Copyright Valor Studios
On Dec. 20, 1943, a young American bomber pilot named Charlie Brown found himself somewhere over Germany, struggling to keep his plane aloft with just one of its four engines still working. They were returning from their first mission as a unit, the successful bombing of a German munitions factory. Of his crew members, one was dead and six wounded, and 2nd Lt. Brown was alone in his cockpit, the three unharmed men tending to the others. Brown’s B-17 had been attacked by 15 German planes and left for dead, and Brown himself had been knocked out in the assault, regaining consciousness in just enough time to pull the plane out of a near-fatal nose dive.
None of that was as shocking as the German pilot now suddenly to his right.
Brown thought he was hallucinating. He did that thing you see people do in movies: He closed his eyes and shook his head no. He looked, again, out the co-pilot’s window. Again, the lone German was still there, and now it was worse. He’d flown over to Brown’s left and was frantic: pointing, mouthing things that Brown couldn’t begin to comprehend, making these wild gestures, exaggerating his expressions like a cartoon character. 
Brown, already in shock, was freshly shot through with fear. What was this guy up to?
He craned his neck and yelled back for his top gunner, screamed at him to get up in his turret and shoot this guy out of the sky. Before Brown’s gunner could squeeze off his first round, the German did something even weirder: He looked Brown in the eye and gave him a salute. Then he peeled away.
What just happened? That question would haunt Brown for more than 40 years, long after he married and left the service and resettled in Miami, long after he had expected the nightmares about the German to stop and just learned to live with them.
Quite a story, no? There is more, much more, and I suggest you go and read the whole thing. Good stuff.

H/T Firehand

5 comments:

creakypavillion said...

"smoking a cigarette while his plane, a Messerschmitt 109, was getting re-armed and refueled"

did he, really? I could believe this cavalier disregard to Safety Instructions if it was Soviet escadrille, not German.

Altogether, too many inconsistencies to believe this story; besides, the more tear-jerking the more suspicious it looks to me.

Jeffro said...

That was an entirely different time with regards to smoking around fuel and other safety issues. Frankly, it is pretty difficult to start a gasoline fire with a cigarette - it is the fumes that ignite, and in order for the fumes to be combustible, they have to be concentrated. Usually never happens in an open area, such as an airfield.

And there are all kinds of similar stories about the WWI pilots on all sides - they all had a code of honor. The German military was really big into traditions, honor and so on, so I don't doubt the story.

Bob said...

Wow! Linked here: http://bobagard.blogspot.com/2012/12/honor.html

creakypavillion said...

Well, judging by the coupe that professional military conspired against Hitler, you're right about code of honor and traditions.

Still, I am suspicious of too romanticized stories involving WWII.

Jeffro said...

There is certainly a dichotomy between the romanticized notions of some of the participants and the real horrors that were committed. Fine to be noble and all, but using mustard gas (among many other indiscriminate weapons) ultimately negates any honor involved in my mind. Cool to see it, somewhat hypocritical in the end.