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  1. #1
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    Oh Captain, My Captain
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    Living by the Code

    (CNN) -- The pilot glanced outside his cockpit and froze. He blinked hard and looked again, hoping it was just a mirage. But his co-pilot stared at the same horrible vision.
    "My God, this is a nightmare," the co-pilot said.

    "He's going to destroy us," the pilot agreed.

    The men were looking at a gray German Messerschmitt fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip. It was five days before Christmas 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber for the kill.

    The B-17 pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission. His bomber had been shot to pieces by swarming fighters, and his plane was alone in the skies above Germany. Half his crew was wounded, and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen in icicles over the machine guns.

    But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer "Pinky" Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something odd happened. The German didn't pull the trigger. He nodded at Brown instead. What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry recorded during World War II. Years later, Brown would track down his would-be executioner for a reunion that reduced both men to tears.
    This is a beautiful story about the bonds that cross enemy lines in combat.
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  2. #2
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    Aug 2003
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    Um, I'm not doubting the actual story, but I question the telling.

    WWII Messerschmitt fighters don't "hover". If the writer means the fighter was maintaining a position next to the bomber's wing, then the two planes were wingtip to wingtip. Most fighters had fixed guns and could not have shot at the bomber from that position. It would have had to maneuver so that it was behind or (less likely) in front of the bomber. (This explains the reference to the tail gunner; his absence would have allowed the fighter freedom of movement behind the bomber.)

    This isn't to say the fighter couldn't have gotten the best of the disabled bomber quite easily, just that CNN's reporter did a poor job of imagining the encounter when he or she described it.

  3. #3
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  4. #4
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    Aug 2003
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    That's a fabulous article!!! So much to think about and understand.

  5. #5
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    LATER in the article the encounter is better described:

    As Stigler's fighter rose to meet the bomber, he decided to attack it from behind. He climbed behind the sputtering bomber, squinted into his gun sight and placed his hand on the trigger. He was about to fire when he hesitated. Stigler was baffled. No one in the bomber fired at him....

    Then he nudged his plane alongside the bomber's wings and locked eyes with the pilot whose eyes were wide with shock and horror....
    (Emphasis added.) So Stigler withheld his fire and then pulled up to give the pilot a look to let the latter know he had been spared. The article also mentioned that this would have been Stigler's fifth "kill", making him an Ace; perhaps he didn't want such an easy shot to mark that milestone.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    14,187
    I just came to the thread after reading about The Holocaust. This article is nice to change over to, especially how S could have been killed for not bombing the plane, and made an honorable decision.



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