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david leigh-smith
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Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown; a story for the generations.

May 29, 2017 · in Aviation · · 27 · 4K

I think most people on iModeler will know of the story of Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler. On the return journey home from a bombing raid on Germany in December 1943, 20 year old pilot Charlie Brown nursed his critically injured B-17 toward the North Sea at under 2,000 ft and only just above stalling speed.

Seeing the stricken plane fly over his airfield, Franz Stigler jumped in his Me109 and flew to finish off the fortress. However, on his approach to attack, Stigler saw how sorry a state the B-17 was in; the rear gunner dead, other crew injured and clearly visible through the shredded fuselage of the plane.

Instead of applying the coup-de-grace, Stigler made a bold and honourable decision; he escorted the American bomber past the German anti aircraft sea defences until they were over the English Channel, where he saluted the crew and turned for home. This mercy, a crime in the eyes of the Nazi party punishable by firing squad, was a great gamble on his own values by the young German pilot.

Unbelievably both pilots not only survived the war but found each other in 1985, going on to become lifelong friends until they both died within a few months of each other in 2008. The story is beautifully written in the book, 'A Higher Call'.

My homage to this great piece of aviation and war history is in 1/48 scale, using the Revell B-17, and the Eduard Me109G-6.

The build will be a little intermittent (due to having other projects on the bench) so updates will be...sometimes. But this is my initial efforts - starting with the B-17.

Thanks for looking and I'll post follow ups on ' works in progress' group.

Reader reactions:
11  Awesome

1 additional image. Click to enlarge.

27 responses

  1. A daunting project ahead, sir...but one I'm going to watching with great interest. I hope you'll be able to come up with a way to display both aircraft in the "in-flight" mode. That would most assuredly be the way to go IMO.

    • That's definitely the way to go, Craig. The biggest challenge I'm finding is getting 1/48 crew for the B-17, but I have plans to make a dynamic and (hopefully) realistic scene.

  2. Great one,this is going to take up some space on the bench,can't wait to see the finished project.

    • My 'comfort zone' is 1/32, and I gave some serious thought to this as a project but the thought of butchering a near $200 1/32 B-17 (Hong Kong models, if you are crazy enough) was enough to endure panic attacks, so I saw sense. Then there's the divorce bill to settle, also!

  3. Oldest daughter gave me the book last Christmas, excellent read, I recommend it highly. Looks like an interesting project. Have fun and I'll enjoy seeing your progress.

    • Yes, the book is wonderfully written from both perspectives and really explores the nature of war on a personal level. For example, despite being only one 'kill' short of receiving a the 'Knight's Cross', Stigler refused to count his victories after this flight despite going on to fly hundreds more missions in defence of the'homeland'.
      Thanks, tom.

  4. Like everyone above, I'll be looking forward to updates as well. Great story behind this one.

    • Thanks, Louis! You must be quite proud of the reaction to the Midway build - amazing response and great to see so many people paying homage to a hugely important piece of our history.

  5. Nice! I'll have to check the book out.

  6. I hadn't heard this story. Very interesting. It looks like a very special project. Have fun!

  7. I knew about this story,I will watch with interest.

  8. Very ambitious project!
    I guess the realistic reproduction of a heavily damaged B-17 is going to be a demanding task.
    Are you planning to put both models on a flight stand and complete them with crew figures?

    • My model builds for the year are a bit ambitious - I have this, a 1/48 USS Essex diorama with two hellcats, a 1/350 CV6 Enterprise, and a Sherman/Tiger duel all on the bench waiting - huge amounts of fun.
      Yes, definitely posing the aircraft flying - which is nice for a change - and the hardest thing so far is locating B-17 crew I 1/48 scale - might have to get really creative with that puzzle. Really enjoying replicating bullet and cannon damage on the fortress.
      Thanks for the post.

  9. Hi David, Great story and good to see you having a crack at this project.
    I love the look of the battle damage on the fuselage halves - any chance you could give us a few lines on how you managed to achieve this?
    Great testament to the strength of the B-17 - I have this kit - was saving it for one of my guadalcanal projects - Jay Ziemer and Old 666.

    • I'll put together a few lines tonight about the battle damage - I have to say that I've really enjoyed doing something creative with a build. Those B-17s could take a huge amount of punishment and still make it home, but the mortality rate of those daylight bombing raids over Germany were colossal.

  10. Thanks for the great history David! I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing this project come to fruition. Very cool idea...:)

  11. Thanks Gary. One of the things I love about this site is the amount of history and stories you hear. It's a real pleasure being part of the community.

  12. Fantastic project David - looking forward to seeing it materialize!

  13. Thanks Greg. It'll be a 'wheels up' build for a change, so thought you might like it!

  14. It looks as though you've got off to a good start on this project, lots of fun to come, I'm sure.

  15. So far it's been really enjoyable. I'm very much into tackling the 'easy' sections of this build first to buy time with the problem sections. There are two things I could really do with help from iModelers - any steer on where I can get 1/48 USAF bomber crew (in flight positions) and has anyone seen a genuinely realistic 'prop blur' technique to pose a 'plane in flight?
    Thanks for the comments, George.

    • David, the latest issues of the Revell B-17G and B-24D have a couple of figures in flying suits in crew poses. There was a resin bomber crew some years back-can't remember the company name- but that was posed on the ground.
      There is an outfit called prop-blur who put out just that- you might want to try one of the aftermarket retailers for both needs. Others may know more! Good luck!

  16. I have started a 'work in progress' strand to this post under ' aircraft'.
    Sorry for the rookie errors in the postings - still getting used to the site layouts!

  17. I just finished the book and am a big fan! Cool project!

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