‘A Higher Call’ – the very best of humanity in the very worst of times.
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 at 135 mph. He had refused to order a bail out, mainly as one of his crew was unconscious and would undoubtedly die.
Seeing the stricken plane fly over his airfield at Jever (Northern German base for JG 27), Franz Stigler jumped in his Me109 and flew to finish off the fortress. However, on his approach to attack, Stigler saw what a sorry a state the B-17 was in; the rear gunner dead, other crew injured and clearly visible through the shredded and bloodied fuselage of the B-17.
Instead of applying the coup-de-grace, Stigler made a bold and honourable decision; he escorted the American bomber past the Nazi anti aircraft sea defences on the Northern German coast until they were over the English Channel, where he saluted the crew, said to himself, “you’re in God’s hands now”, 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’. Although inspired by the story, it was the artwork of Nicholas Trudgian and John Shaw that spoke to me as a modeler.
The build log (of several, several, several posts, some of which were even about the model) can be seen here https://imodeler.com/groups/work-in-progress-aircraft/forum/topic/franz-stigler-and-charlie-brown-a-story-for-the-generations/?topic_page=1&num=15
It’s not the most serious of build logs but there’s some great contributions (Louis’ B17 photos – cheers, @lgardner – are a must see).
The build was helped considerably by two wonderful iModeler friends who supplied the PropBlur effects for both aircraft and the 109’s spinner (thanks to David Thomas @davidathomas and Pedro Rocha @holzhamer). Proof of both the international and altruistic nature of this great forum.
The photos are bit rubbish (as usual) and as anyone who followed the WiP will know I had a hiccup with the final coat of varnish which fogged the canopies and obscured all the cockpit work. I’ll replace the canopies, at some point. Maybe. ‘When-I-have-the-time’. The base also needs finishing (I have an OS map of Northern Germany on order which I’ll embed in the topside of the wood.
It’s been a lot of fun building this and the contributions of the iModeler fraternity have made it hugely enjoyable. I have dedicated this build to the memory of Bernie E Hackett Jr who’s final karma count on iModeler was 19,666. A true gentleman.
9 additional images. Click to enlarge.