20 Dec

On this day in history: A Higher Call

                                       

order cialis” /> A Higher Call
December 20, 1943
by John D. Shaw


December 20, 1943, 4 days before Christmas:

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.

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Yesterday saw the release of a brand new book by Adam Makos (with Larry Alexander), A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II , which gives a detailed account of not only this strange “Christmas Truce“-like encounter, but also tells the background story of Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler, and what happened to them after their famous aerial encounter (kept secret by the U.S. 8th Air Force for fear that American gunners might hesitate firing upon the enemy if the clemency shown Ye Olde Pub- Charlie Brown’s bomber- were known. Brown and his crew were denied the medals they earned and deserved and were told their mission never happened. On Stigler’s part, he kept his chivalrous act secret because to not do so would have seen him face a firing squad).

For the next few decades, Brown and Stigler would be “haunted” by memory of that day. They had unanswered questions for one another: Was the German 109 out of ammunition (Stigler’s fighter was fully fueled and armed)? Did Brown’s crew make it to England (Stigler thought it an impossible flight due to the condition of the B-17 and had motioned to Brown to head for Sweden and live out the remainder of the war)? It wouldn’t be until 1990 that Brown and Stigler miraculously found one another.

Prior to Brown and Stigler’s passing in 2008, Makos met with and interviewed both men extensively to tell their story. And as Charlie Brown puts it, “In this story, I’m just a character- Franz Stigler is the real hero.” Shocking for the author to hear, having grown up regarding WWII-era Germans as all goose-stepping Nazis, evil and irredeemable. But as much as anything else, this book is about Franz Stigler and the heroic decency and chivalry of the Luftwaffe aces that Stigler flew with. As the deeply pro-American Makos relates at the beginning of his book,

something began to puzzle me. I noticed that the aging American WWII pilots talked about their counterparts- the old German WWII pilots- with a strange kind of respect. They spoke of the German pilots’ bravery, decency, and this code of honor that they supposedly shared. Some American veterans even went back to Germany, to the places where they’d been shot down, to meet their old foes and shake hands.

Are you kidding? I thought. They were trying to kill you! They killed your friends. You’re supposed to never forget. But the veterans who flew against the Germans thought differently. For once, I thought the Greatest Generation was crazy.

After Brown and Stigler finally met 40 years after their encounter, and their story began making the rounds in news publications, Makos’ critical thoughts were echoed even more harshly by those who did perceive Stigler’s show of mercy to the enemy as an act of treason:

As news of Charlie and Franz’s reunion circulated, it made the headlines, Jagerblatt ran a story about Franz’s reunion with Charlie under the title “An Act of Chivalry in the Skies over Europe.” Franz began receiving phone calls from Germany that delivered the same message.

“Is this Franz Stigler?”
“Ja.”
“You pigheaded asshole.” Click.
Others began, “Are you Franz Stigler, who didn’t shoot the B-17 down?”
“Ja.”
“Traitor!” Click.

-Pg 365, A Higher Call

Those critical of Stigler have a point: After all, his act of mercy toward an American bomber meant its surviving crew might have lived another day to drop more bombs upon German cities, killing men, women, and children.

And then there were those local Canadian callers (Stigler now living in Vancouver) who became shocked knowing that a former Luftwaffe ace was living amongst them:

“Is this Franz Stigler?”
“Ja.”
“Go home, you Nazi bastard.” Click.

-Pg 366, A Higher Call

Many Germans were never part of the Nazi party movement. Stigler was among those opposed to its ideology. He fought neither to advance the interests of the Nazis nor really so much to defend Germany as it was to seek revenge for the death of his older brother, August, killed in the war.

What shaped Stigler’s moral character as a Luftwaffe pilot was his mentor, Roedel, who, unlike other hotshot aces, chose not to decorate his fighter with the number of enemy “kills”:

If I ever see or hear of you shooting at a man in a parachute,” Roedel said, “I will shoot you down myself.”

The words stung.

“You follow the rules of war for you, not for your enemy,” Roedel said. “You fight by rules to keep your humanity.”

-Pg 54, A Higher Call

Another positive influence was the example of Hans-Joachim Marseille, the “Star of Africa“:

Everyone knew it was JG-27’s policy to try and get a new pilot his first victory within ten missions. But for Franz, ten had come and gone.

“There’s no reason to apologize for never having killed a man,” Marseille said. He poured Franz a tall glass of cognac. “As soldiers, we must kill or be killed, but once a person enjoys killing, he is lost. After my first victory I felt terrible.”

~~~

“We only need to answer to God and our comrades,” Marseilles said.

-Pg 66-7, A Higher Call

Makos does an excellent job in weaving together the two narratives of Charlie Brown’s life experiences and that of Franz Stigler. He tracks significant moments in their lives. Central to their story, of course, is Chapter 15 and the dramatic and fateful crossing of paths.

Unbeknownst to Brown as he piloted the badly damaged Pub at the mercy of Stigler’s 109 is that:

1. Stigler was not one of the original Focke-Wulf 190s that had badly damaged the Pub, leaving it for dead. His 109 was recently refueled and armed with a fresh belt of 20mm cannon shells (Brown originally assumed that Stigler’s 109 might have spared firing upon him because it was out of ammo).

2. Stigler launched from the airbase as the Pub flew low and nearby, specifically to go after it. Stigler’s goal? To take the B-17 down from the skies and score the one more victory Stigler needed to be awarded the prestigious Knight’s Cross. So the German fighter ace had an extra incentive that day to take down an enemy plane.

Knocking the Pub from the skies would have been an easy victory-win for Stigler. But as he came closer, awed at the badly damaged bomber and marveling at how it could possibly still be flying, “In a rush of long-dormant emotions, Franz forgot he was a German fighter pilot.” [Pg. 201]

The Franz Stigler who went to Africa to avenge his brother’s death would have had an answer. He would have destroyed the bomber and killed its crew. But there, in the desert, and over ancient Sicily, the last of Europe’s Knights had taught Franz Stigler a new code. Their code said to fight with fearlessness and restraint, to celebrate victories not death, and to know when it was time to answer a higher call.

Franz gazed at the men in the waist tending one another’s wounds. He looked into the ashen face of the ball turret gunner. He thought about what his brother August would have done.

A gear clicked in Franz’s soul. He laid a hand over the pocket of his jacket and felt his rosary beads within. This will be no victory for me, Franz decided. I will not have this on my conscience for the rest of my life.

-Pg 202, A Higher Call

The importance of the Knight’s Cross took on a different significance for Franz Stigler after this experience:

He had seen the eyes of the wounded bomber crew, young men no different than the ones he had been killing for two years. He knew the Cross stood for bravery. But Franz now realized it also represented a man’s success at his most corrupted service to the world- his prowess at killing other men. Franz knew he could not stop fighting. The war would not let him. But never again would he celebrate his job as a fighter pilot, the role he head volunteered for. On December 20, 1943, he had given up on the Knight’s Cross for good.

-Pg 231, A Higher Call

The book follows the remainder of Stigler’s wartime service and traces the lives of Brown and Stigler post-war, leading up to the story of how they finally managed to track each other down.

Some might condemn Stigler’s show of mercy to the enemy as a betrayal to his countrymen, as it left Brown’s surviving bombing crew to live again to fight another day. But without showing our enemy mercy when they are left helpless and defenseless, what do we become? What does it say about us?

Stigler’s clemency allowed for good men to live and to father children and grandchildren. And it allowed him to keep his sense of honor and his humanity during a time of war when men can behave with great barbarism and ruthlessness toward his fellow man.

Stigler is as much a part of “The Greatest Generation” as men like Brown. In this crazy world, sometimes it is the case that good men find themselves fighting on opposite sides of the fence. And even as we fight one another, we should keep it alive somewhere in our minds and in our hearts that our enemy might not be so different from ourselves; and that in another era, we might even be friends and brothers:

In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter.

On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged it was a wonder that she was still flying.

The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me, as precious as my brother was.

Thanks Charlie.

Your Brother,

Franz

This book would make a great Christmas gift (to yourself and others!). It is the most complete, definitive account of Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler’s story (I’ve seen previous accounts that have certain details wrong); and it is a highly entertaining, engrossing read. One of those page-turners that makes it difficult to set the book down to take a break.

If Hollywood ever gets a hold of a script, don’t be surprised to see a version of this true-life story make it to the big screen.

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Further reads:
Valor Studios

This entry was posted in Book Review, Europe, Germany, military history, On This Day, This Day in History, True Heroes. Bookmark the permalink. Thursday, December 20th, 2012 at 1:57 am
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20 Responses to On this day in history: A Higher Call

  1. Cap-Dax says: 1

    Another Story that Touches me.. an act of Honor.. were both sides loved the same GOD..

    The Christmas Truce../ A ‘white Christmas’, singing of carols, shouts of good wishes across the trenches and the erection of illuminated deocrations: A truce which days earlier had seemed inconceivable was now all but inevitable.

    Christmas Eve – the Truce begins

    http://www.christmastruce.co.uk/article.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1lktY_pDauY

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  2. oil guy from Alberta says: 2

    My parents and my uncle were walking the cobble stone beaches of Dieppe. A close friend of theirs was wounded and captured there, thus he spent 3 years in a pow camp. Mom noticed an older gentleman who was interested and was watching them. They went in the sea side cafe and started talking to him. He was the mayor of Dieppe.

    He took them to city hall where employees shook their hands. Mom got a bouquet of flowers. My uncle was a flight engineer with RCAF bomber command. Over 100 Allied planes were shot down over Dieppe. Many were Canadian fighters. Dad was a sergeant in the PPCLI, later transfered to the green Regina Rifles(Juno Beach). The citizens of Dieppe never forget the Canadians that fought at Dieppe.

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  3. oil guy from Alberta says: 3

    Canadians liberated Dieppe in 1944.

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  4. Nan G says: 4

    Hans-Joachim Marseille, the “Star of Africa“:

    “There’s no reason to apologize for never having killed a man,” Marseille said. He poured Franz a tall glass of cognac. “As soldiers, we must kill or be killed, but once a person enjoys killing, he is lost. After my first victory I felt terrible.”

    That really touched me.
    Marseille was one of Germany’s top fighter pilots in the African campaign.
    He killed a lot of us and our allies.
    Too often people lump all the Germans who fought in with the sadists involved in a few places in the Nazi regime.
    But it is not true.
    My family had to leave Europe by land.
    Through Germany.
    Everywhere they went, (Russia, Poland, Romania, Germany, France) individuals were helpful in getting Jews to safety.

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  5. WORDSMITH
    THANK YOU, such a good story of actions by honorable people,
    I think those raised in honorable family tend to become flyers, more than
    ground officers, those who commit horrible unthinkeble actions on the JEWS,
    this was the other dark side we cannot forget, because yes it was done by non human beast,
    among other human too scare and not knowing how to prevent an un-preventeble action,
    the GERMAN CITIZENS who knew those horrors where happening, they had some sold by the indoctrination of the LEADER WHO WAS SEEKING THE YOUNG MINDS FOR HIM ALONE,,
    DOES ANYONE SEE A SIMILARITY IN THERE, WHILE THE HIGH CLASS STUDENTS AND OTHER WHERE LOOKING ELSEWHERE,
    HELL EVEN THE KING TO BE EDWARD WAS A FRIEND OF HITLER FOR A GOOD WHILE, AND ROME TURNED THEIR HEADS ON ATROCITY AT THE BEGINNING,
    GOOD WE CAN HEAR OF ACTIONS OF COMPASSION AND HUMAN SPIRIT BEFORE IT FALL INTO THE
    FORGOTTEN TIMES OF ONE ERA WHICH WANTED TO DESTROY A NATION FOREVER,
    AND CLAIMED TO STOP THE RIPPLE OF THE OCEAN, THAT ALSO IS STRANGELY RESURGING
    FROM THE CRATER OF HELL,.
    BYE

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  6. Wordsmith says: 6

    @Nan G:

    That really touched me.
    Marseille was one of Germany’s top fighter pilots in the African campaign.
    He killed a lot of us and our allies.

    Nan,

    One of the legendary stories about Marseille from the book:

    The legend went that Marseille had shot down a British pilot named Byers, who had been badly burned when captured. Marseille personally took Byers to the field hospital, where hospital staff told Marseille the prisoner’s name and unit. That evening, Marseille flew through British flak to drop a note over Byer’s airfield, addressed to his comrades. The note said that Byers was badly wounded but was being cared for. Two weeks later, when Byers died of his wounds, Marseille felt so badly that he flew back through the flak to the British field and dropped another note notifying Byer’s friends and sending deepest regrets. It was a gallant act that earned him the respect of many in the Air Force except for one: the second most powerful man in The Party, who doubled as the Air Force’s leader- Reichsmarschall Herman Goering. Goering had once been an ace in the Red Baron’s squadron in WWI but had since become known throughout the Air Force with disdain. Someone had nicknamed Goering “the Fat One”, due to his heft, and it had stuck. Goering put out an edict that no pilot should ever again attempt a stunt like the one Marseille had.

    -Pg 67, A Higher Call

    Nan further wrote:

    Too often people lump all the Germans who fought in with the sadists involved in a few places in the Nazi regime.
    But it is not true.

    Many of the Luftwaffe pilots fought not only allied fighters but their own leaders as well. Like Johannes Steinhoff, who figures in A Higher Call:

    Aces like Steinhoff risked death every day to defend their nation and, by voicing their opposition to the unbelievable decisions of the Third Reich high command, risked their careers and even their lives. Steinhoff was at the forefront of the fighter pilots’ revolt of January 1945, when Galland was replaced as general of fighters. A group of the most decorated and valiant Luftwaffe leaders confronted the Luftwaffe commander and deputy Führer, Reichsmarschall Herman Göring, with a list of demands for the survival of their service. Their main concern was the Reichsmarschall’s lack of understanding and unwillingness to support his pilots against accusations of cowardice and treason. They were being blamed for Germany’s misfortunes. Steinhoff’s frankness got him threatened with court-martial and banished to Italy, with similar penalties imposed upon others in the mutiny.

    Some other interesting comments in this interview:

    WWII: So, unlike the British and Americans, the Soviets did not treat fellow pilots and officers as gentlemen?

    Steinhoff: It was definitely not there. There was no mutual respect. The Americans and British treated us as gentlemen, as we did our enemy pilots when they were captured. The Soviets had no concept of chivalry as a whole.

    On Marseille:

    WWII: Some of the men you flew with became legends. For instance, in 1940 in France you commanded a young pilot named Hans-Joachim Marseille. What do you remember about him?

    Steinhoff: Marseille was in my wing, 4/JG.52, just before the Battle of Britain and was there shortly after it started. I was his squadron leader, and I watched him. I knew he was a brilliant guy, very intelligent, very quick and aggressive, but he spent too much time looking for the girls, and his mind was not always on operations. He actually had to be taken off flight status on more than one occasion because he was so exhausted from his nights on the town, if you know what I mean.

    WWII: So you would say he was a playboy?

    Steinhoff: He was the perfect playboy, but a real fighter. But he was an individual, not a team player. He had seven victories when I fired him, not because he was not good, but because he was shot down four times while getting those victories. He had no concept of Rottenflieger [i.e., a wingman's responsibility], and many men did not want to fly with him as their wingman, which is very bad for morale. I thought the best thing for him was to transfer him away from the women, and he became a legend in North Africa, of course, winning the Diamonds [to the Knight's Cross] and scoring 158 victories. He was a true character and was the epitome of the First World War fighter pilot, but we were not fighting the First World War.

    WWII: Please describe your humorous encounter with a Lockheed P-38 pilot named Widen in Italy in 1944.

    Steinhoff: This is a good story. I was test-flying an Me-109 with my aide near our base at Foggia. This was before I had been exiled from Germany, during my first tour as Kommodore of JG.77. Well, we were attacked at low level by a flight of P-38 Lightnings, about 100 American fighters in all, but the two of us figured, why not attack? We turned into them, and I flew through their formation going in the opposite direction, getting good strikes on a couple of them. I poured a good burst into this P-38 and the pilot rolled over, and I saw him bail out. I had this on gun camera also. Well, he was picked up and made a POW, and I invited him to my tent for a drink and dinner, as well as to spend the night. We drank some of the local wine… and drank and drank. I thought to myself, “What am I going to do with this guy?” Well, it was long after midnight, so I lay down in my tent and stretched my legs so I could reach his head. He woke up and said, “Don’t worry, I won’t run away, you have my word as an officer and a gentleman. Besides, you got me too drunk.” We slept, and he kept his word, and I never placed a guard on him.

    WWII: So you subdued your opponent with alcohol?

    Steinhoff: Yes, that’s right, and it worked very well, you know. He was a very likable man, and I was very pleased to have the victory, but as I told him, I was even more pleased to see him uninjured and safe.

    In A Higher Call, there is a passage on page 124-7 where Steinhoff comes to the rescue of Franz, who is sought by the Gestapo for questioning, trying to tie Franz’ deceased brother with an anti-Nazi Party cell of students back in Munich:

    “What did you get yourself into?” Willi asked. Franz said he had done nothing wrong. He thought back and admitted he had snuck into the Colosseum on a leave in Rome but nothing worse. Franz told Willi he would confront them. Even if he thought The Party was bullshit, he never said it in the wrong company.

    Franz entered the shack with Willi behind him. Two Gestapo agents were waiting for him.

    ~~~

    The Gestapo captain ordered Willi to leave. Franz found himself alone with them. The captain said they were from a regional Gestapo office.

    The door to the shack swung open. Steinhoff, the commander of JG-77, entered. The Gestapo captain asked him to leave, but Steinhoff asked for the captain’s rank. “The last time I checked, a major outranks a captain,” Steinhoff said. Folding his arms, Steinhoff leaned against a wall behind Franz, his presence and dangling Knight’s Cross adding weight to Franz’s defense. Steinhoff and JG-77 had returned to Trapani a few days prior, on June 13, to relieve JG-27 so the unit could begin to rotate home. Willi had found Steinhoff and summoned him to Franz’s aid.

    Steinhoff had always hated The Party and had dealt with the Gestapo before. In Russia they brought their inquisition to his unit, then Fighter Wing 52 (JG-52), to investigate the supposed Jewish backgrounds of a few of his pilots. Steinhoff had declined to assist them and had said to the Gestapo leader, “You’ll be lucky if you leave Russia alive.” The man asked if the skies were that unsafe. Steinhoff said, “No, it’s because you just made enemies of forty fighter pilots who have never added a Ju-52 to their victory list, and I think that’s yours sitting on my runway.”

    ~~~

    Franz knew Steinhoff had taken a great risk in siding with him- the man had never even asked if Franz was innocent or guilty, he had just waded into the fire.

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  7. Wordsmith says: 7

    @ilovebeeswarzone:

    WORDSMITH
    THANK YOU, such a good story of actions by honorable people,

    You’re welcome, bees. I hope people do check out the book.

    @oil guy from Alberta: Thanks for sharing that!

    @Cap-Dax: When I first heard about this story, Christmas Truce also came to my mind. I linked to Mata’s post, early in this post.

    ReplyReply
  8. Wordsmith
    I guess you pinpoint the why I get so angry to see the WARRIOR s come back so crippled after having fought
    the war so honorably in these last years of the enemies burying the IEDS cluster of bombs so cowardly,
    WHILE STILL FIGHTING THEM THE HONORABLE WAY,
    which to my mind is not right for a roe to be impose as it is,
    I so strongly believe that you fight with the same measure of your enemies,
    no with honor to a beastly return disable honorable SOLDIER, against a prisoner taken alive,
    against a people helping the enemy, it is not the way to fight a war which they have taken away the word WAR itself, which they have taken away the word VICTORY, which is still going on with signed documents which should only be sighned after the war is own by the NOBLE WARRIORS,
    I find it the so horrible as it give me the thought that OBAMA HAS THE WISFULL MINDSET TO HAVE THE WARRIORS INFLICTED WITH DISABILITY OR DEATH , AS TO SHOW HIS FRIENDS THE MUSLIMS HOW HE PUNISH AMERICAN IN RETURN, TO GET EVEN WITH THE ENEMY HE SYMPATIZE WITH,
    I know but that is in my mind, even more after other action s he did not to save the BENGHASI DIPLOMATS AND SEALS, LIKE A SPITEFUL MESSAGE OF REVENGE, HE SLIP HIS TONGUE ONCE ON THE WORD REVENGE, THAT GAVE ME ANOTHER CLUE, AND SO ON HIS BEHAVIOR IN OPPOSING THE FISCAL CLIFF, WANTING AN UNLIMITED CREDIT CARD
    BUT NOT WANTING TO GIVE THE SPENDING CUTS AS A WEIGHT TO JUST AN EFFORT EVEN TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO HIS SPENDING SPREE HE HAS IN MIND FOR THE NEXT 4 YEARS,
    WHICH WE DON’T CLAIM TO BE SURE IF HE WILL LEAVE WILLINGLY
    OR BRING ANOTHER BUNCH OF LIES OR ACTIONS TO CLING ON THE POWER LIKE OTHER DICTATORS WE HAVE THE HISTORY TO TELL US ALL.

    ReplyReply
  9. a good news the MARINE HAS BEEN RELEASE NOW FOR SURE,
    BILL O’REILEY, YOU’RE THE MAN AND FOX IS THE SMART MESSENGER AS USUAL,
    THE ONLY MEDIA WHO TOOK ON THE PROBLEM, THEY ALL CHIPPED IN AT FOX,
    SHAME ON THE OTHER MEDIAS TO LEAVE ONE MARINE SHACKLE TO HIS BED, YOU ALL DON’T CARE ,BUT YOUR LISTENERS CARE,
    SHAME ON YOU IN GOVERNMENT NOT COMING PUBLIC TO ALERT THE PEOPLE YOU’RE SUPPOSE TO SERVE REMEMBER?
    THANK YOU MEXICAN JUDGE FOR A GOOD WISE DECISION,

    ReplyReply
  10. Nan G says: 10

    @Wordsmith:
    Thanks so much for the added details, Wordsmith.

    My family had people in it who could share amazing stories about kindness of strangers and even of officials while going through Germany.
    One was my great aunt, Cicilia.
    When I was in high school I met a wonderful historian who just got a position at UCLA.
    I gave him Cicilia’s address and told him a couple of her experiences.
    When he finally called on her to collect all her stories first hand she had lapsed into a coma.
    Her stories became anecdotal.
    Officially they died with her.
    One story was about the day she and her children were leaving Germany at a border crossing.
    Her last name was undeniably Jewish.
    She met the crossing agent with her papers AND a hankerchief filled with jewelry.
    He unfolded the hankey and looked at the jewels, then handed it back to her and closed her own hand over it, letting them through.
    Only later did she realize he had added a watch, a gold man’s pocket watch, to the pile.

    It is really too bad so much history is lost while revisionist garbage is passing itself off as if it is real history.

    ReplyReply
  11. Richard Wheeler says: 11

    Word Thanks for a great post.Those who miss Mata’s strength with grace will enjoy her story of The Christmas Truce you mentioned in #7.Don’t be a stranger.Believe your voice is needed more than ever at F.A. Merry Christmas
    Richard

    ReplyReply
  12. Don F says: 12

    Thanks for letting us know about the book. Great story. Restores my faith. Merry Christmas.

    Don F
    ATP

    ReplyReply
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  16. Dennis M. Patterson says: 13

    I flew 1000 combat hours in Vietnam as an attack helicopter pilot flying B model & Cobra gunships. My DUTY was to protect the soldier on the ground by hunting down and killing enemy soldiers. Say what you will about honor and nobility, I could not live with myself knowing I allowed an enemy to escape and kill the men I was sworn to protect. I believe the fact that this German pilot never spoke of his act till after the war says it all. War has a price the protected will never know.

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  17. Dennis M. Patterson
    thank you for your bravery, and thank you for coming to this FLOPPING ACES,
    IN THOSE TIMES IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT I’M SURE,
    AND YOU WENT IN A REAL HELL OF A WAR,
    I know they all are, I believe strongly that god gave many survivors a long life to make up for the lost of your BROTHERS IN ARMS LIVES,
    BEST TO YOU SIR

    ReplyReply
  18. Wordsmith says: 15

    Hat tip to Rich Wheeler for this great article. Excerpt:

    Living by the code

    People love to hear war stories about great generals or crack troops such as Seal Team 6, the Navy unit that killed Osama bin Laden. But there is another side of war that’s seldom explored: Why do some soldiers risk their lives to save their enemies and, in some cases, develop a deep bond with them that outlives war?

    And are such acts of chivalry obsolete in an age of drone strikes and terrorism?

    Those are the kinds of questions Brown’s story raises. His encounter with the German fighter pilot is beautifully told in a New York Times best-selling book, “A Higher Call.” The book explains how that aerial encounter reverberated in both men’s lives for more than 50 years.

    “The war left them in turmoil,” says Adam Makos, who wrote the book with Larry Alexander. “When they found each other, they found peace.”

    Their story is extraordinary, but it’s not unique. Union and Confederate troops risked their lives to aid one another during the Civil War. British and German troops gathered for post-war reunions; some even vacationed together after World War II. One renowned American general traveled back to Vietnam to meet the man who almost wiped out his battalion, and the two men hugged and prayed together.

    What is this bond that surfaces between enemies during and after battle?

    It’s called the warrior’s code, say soldiers and military scholars. It’s shaped cultures as diverse as the Vikings, the Samurai, the Romans and Native Americans, says Shannon E. French, author of “Code of the Warrior.”

    The code is designed to protect the victor, as well as the vanquished, French says.

    “People think of the rules of war primarily as a way to protect innocent civilians from being victims of atrocities,” she says. “In a much more profound sense, the rules are there to protect the people doing the actual fighting.”

    The code is designed to prevent soldiers from becoming monsters. Butchering civilians, torturing prisoners, desecrating the enemies’ bodies — are all battlefield behaviors that erode a soldier’s humanity, French says.

    The code is ancient as civilization itself. In Homer’s epic poem, “The Iliad,” the Greek hero Achilles breaks the code when his thirst for vengeance leads him to desecrate the body of his slain foe, the Trojan hero Hector.

    Most warrior cultures share one belief, French says:

    “There is something worse than death, and one of those things is to completely lose your humanity.”

    The code is still needed today, French says.

    Thousands of U.S. soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Some have seen, and have done, things that are unfathomable.

    A study of Vietnam veterans showed that those who felt as if they had participated in dishonorable behavior during the war or saw the Vietnamese as subhuman experienced more post-traumatic stress disorder, French says.

    Drone warfare represents a new threat to soldiers’ humanity, French says.

    The Pentagon recently announced it would award a new Distinguished Warfare Medal to soldiers who operate drones and launch cyberattacks. The medal would rank above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, two medals earned in combat.

    At least 17,000 people have signed an online petition protesting the medal. The petition says awarding medals to soldiers who wage war via remote control was an “injustice” to those who risked their lives in combat.

    Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the new medal at a February news conference.

    “I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cybersystems, have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta says. “And they’ve given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar.”

    Still, critics ask, is there any honor in killing an enemy by remote control?

    French isn’t so sure.

    “If [I'm] in the field risking and taking a life, there’s a sense that I’m putting skin in the game,” she says. “I’m taking a risk so it feels more honorable. Someone who kills at a distance — it can make them doubt. Am I truly honorable?”

    ~~~

    What creates the bond between enemies?

    Stigler was able to recognize the common humanity of the enemy when he locked eyes with Brown. It caused him to take mercy.

    That sudden recognition can spring from many sources in battle — hearing the moans of a wounded enemy; sharing a common language; or opening the wallet of an enemy and seeing pictures of his wife and children.

    That respect for the enemy’s humanity typically starts at the top, some scholars say. A leader sets the tone, and the troops get the message. A military leader who embodied this approach was one of Germany’s greatest World War II commanders, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, also known as the “Desert Fox.”

    One time, a group of British commandos tried to sneak behind enemy lines and assassinate Rommel in the North African desert. They failed. But Rommel insisted the commandos be buried in the same graveyard as the German soldiers who died defending him, says Steven Pressfield, author of “Killing Rommel.”

    There were battle zones during World War II where that type of magnanimity was almost impossible. On the Eastern Front, German and Russian soldiers literally hated one another. And in the South Pacific, U.S. Marines and Japanese soldiers took no prisoners.

    At times, the terrain can force soldiers to follow the code. The North African desert during World War II was one such place, Pressfield says.

    Fortunes turned quickly because so many battles were fought by fast-moving tanks and mobile units. A German unit that captured British soldiers could end up surrendering to them minutes later because the battle lines were so fluid. Also, the desert sun was so harsh that both sides knew if they left enemy prisoners stranded or mistreated, they would quickly die, Pressfield says.

    It was not unusual for German and British doctors to work together while taking care of wounded soldiers from both sides, Pressfield says.

    Some British and German soldiers never forgot how their enemy treated them and staged reunions after the war.

    “The Germans and the British used to get together for soccer matches,” Pressfield says. “It was the Desert Foxes versus the Desert Rats.”

    These soldiers weren’t just engaging in nostalgia. They shared a sense of hardship. They had survived an ordeal that most people could not understand.

    “In many ways, a soldier feels more of a bond with the enemy they’re fighting than with the countrymen back home,” Pressfield says. “The enemy they’re fighting is equally risking death.”

    That bond could even lead to acts of loyalty after the war, says Daniel Rolph, author of “My Brother’s Keepers.”

    Once, when a Union officer mortally wounded a Confederate captain during the Civil War, the Union man sang hymns and prayed with his enemy as the man took his last breaths. Before the captain died, he asked the Union officer to return his sword and revolver to his family — a request the soldier honored after the war ended, Rolph says.

    “I even have an article from The New York Times in 1886 where Union soldiers who were on the pension rolls of the federal government were actually trying to transfer their money toward Confederate soldiers,” Rolph says.

    These bonds can even form between enemies who do not share a language or a culture.

    Harold Moore Jr. was a U.S. Army colonel who led a desperate fight depicted in the 2002 Mel Gibson film, “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young. ” In 1965, Moore lost 79 of his men fighting against a larger North Vietnamese force. It was one of the first major battles in the Vietnam War.

    In 1993, Moore led some of his soldiers back to Vietnam to meet their former adversaries on the same battlefield. When they arrived, Moore met the Vietnamese officer who led troops against him, Lt. Gen. Nguyen Huu An.

    An held out his arms and greeted Moore by kissing him on both cheeks. Moore gave him his wristwatch as a token of friendship.

    Moore described in an essay what happened next:

    “I invited all to form a circle with arms extended around each other’s shoulders and we bowed our heads. With prayer and tears, we openly shared our painful memories.”

    An died two years after meeting Moore. Moore traveled to Vietnam to pay his respects to his former enemy’s family. While visiting their home, Moore spotted a familiar object displayed in the viewing case of An’s family shrine: It was his wristwatch.

    ReplyReply
  19. Wordsmith
    yes, another keepsake POST, beyond the limits of human,
    there is a soul, a heartbeat, a memory unsustainable of survival
    because the other died by one’s hand on the trigger,
    or not,
    but to see a brave come back wounded is a pain for the loved one which won’t heal,
    thank you for another great POST, THANKING MATA FOR CONTRIBUTION TO IT,
    Richard Wheeler thank you for participating in such story,
    I had heard of stories by WARRIORS, which are still vivid in my mind,
    one would kill today and save his brother in arms tomorrow which died in his arms,
    and other similar ones, which made one go back to save another but died with it,
    it rush back on the surface by reading this POST,
    even that I work so hard to conceal it deep enough, because they leave a taste of death,

    ReplyReply
  20. Pingback: Capt. Eric “Winkle” Brown at 94: “Only doing the job” | Flopping Aces

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